It was revealed recently that the City of Missoula has put down $25,000 in earnest money to purchase the Sleepy Inn Motel, located on East Broadway near the Russell Street Bridge for a total purchase price of over $1 million.

Ward Four City Councilor Jesse Ramos, along with fellow councilors John Contos and Sandra Vaseka, sent a letter to the members of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency dated March 15 urging further study of the purchase before the official vote to approve the purchase scheduled for Monday night’s city council meeting.

Ramos told KGVO News that he had consulted with a professional commercial real estate appraiser to determine the retail value of the motel and the land.

“His best guess would be $750,000 and that would be the max for that motel,” he said. “It is worth nowhere near $1.1 million, and I also included a listing for that motel from six years ago that was for $675,000 and it obviously did not sell, and the owner was so desperate to get rid of it that he was offering owner financing.”

According to the letter, the plan is to purchase the building using COVID 19 funds in case the city needs a facility to house coronavirus patients, however, Ramos disputes that purpose.

“The argument is that FEMA is probably going to reimburse us, but I don’t know many people who can run a business on ‘probably,” he said. “I’m going to buy this completely unsustainable business in the hopes that I get a grant for it down the road. People don’t do business like that, but the city can because they have coerced dollars that they’re working with.”

Ramos said he believes there is simply not enough information about the building, the purchase price and the plans for the future to proceed to a purchase.

“We don’t know. Nobody knows,” he said. “We haven’t been presented with any plans or any documents. I assume we’ll get some of this information on Monday, but I have no idea. There are no attachments online or anything like that. They’re expecting to ram this down our throats and we’ve already approved the earnest money payment, besides myself, Sandy (Vaseka) and John (Contos). Everybody else voted to approve the earnest money payment with no plans, no exit strategy, no feasibility study, nothing.”

In the letter, Ramos states:

‘This $1.1-$1.5 MM would be better spent offering tax relief to the people of Missoula. If we release this $1.1-$1.5 MM and took a Tax Increment Financing remittance, it would give roughly $300,000-$500,000 to each the City, County, and Schools. This would offer the people of Missoula property tax relief during this crisis.’

MRA Director Ellen Buchanan replied to Ramos' letter with this comment:

'Councilman Ramos,

For the record, I did not misrepresent anything with respect to the value of the Sleepy Inn when presenting to the MRA Board today.  I will be happy to address your comments at the City Council meeting on Monday night.

Ellen'