The Gallatin County Commission plans to ask voters in November for $59 million to replace the cramped and aging Law and Justice Center.

If voters approve the project, property taxes would increase by about $34.38 in the first year for a house assessed at $200,000, according to an estimate by D.A. Davidson. The county will finalize the estimated tax impact of the project next week after it receives updated information from the state.

In addition to asking voters for the $59 million, commissioners plan to spend another $6 million in money they have set aside and from interest they anticipate collecting from selling and investing the bonds for the project, said county finance director Justine Swanson.

“It really boils down to building a building that will provide for those who will occupy it and, more importantly, for the citizens of the county, who are the ones that we’re elected to serve,” Commissioner Don Seifert said. “I think it will provide for the needs of the county and absorb future growth.”

The commissioners will discuss the project and accept public comment at a meeting on Tuesday at 9 a.m. in the courthouse. They will meet on Aug. 12 at noon in the courthouse to approve the ballot question. To develop the designs, estimate the cost of the project and collect other information for the ballot question, the county has spent about $740,000 this year, Swanson said.

The proposed two-story building would be near the existing Law and Justice Center. It would house the sheriff’s office, the county attorney’s office, victims services, the clerk of district court and the justice and district courts.

In designing the building, ThinkOne Architecture worked with county employees and elected officials to ensure it would meet their needs.

Unlike the existing building, the new building would comply with codes and include a secure space for transporting inmates from the jail to court, two additional district court rooms and about 2,000 square feet for future expansion.

If the ballot measure passes, the commissioners foresee soliciting bids for the project in the winter and completing construction in 2022.

“We’ve spent six years plus working on the programming in this building … We have what we have to work with and we have vetted it over and over,” said Commissioner Joe Skinner. “I am very confident. No one knows the future, but you have to work with what you have at the time.”

The commissioners have been working to replace the Law and Justice Center for several years because they say it doesn’t comply with safety standards and isn’t large enough for the county’s growing needs. They anticipate the $65 million building will serve the county for several decades.

Previously, the county considered working with the city of Bozeman to replace the Law and Justice Center, which they share. After voters rejected a $68.3 million city-county project in 2016, the city went ahead without the county, receiving voter approval in 2018 to issue $36.9 million in bonds for a city-only public safety center.

The new building on Rouse Avenue will house the city police department, municipal courts, victims services and fire crews.

The new city building will free up space in the Law and Justice Center, but the commissioners have said it isn’t enough to meet the county’s needs and that addressing the building’s structural and safety issues would be more expensive than replacing it.

Perrin Stein can be reached at 406-582-2648 or at pstein@dailychronicle.com. Follow her on Twitter @PerrinStein.

Perrin Stein is the county, state and federal government reporter for the Chronicle.

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