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The Gallatin County Commission purchased a Four Corners shooting range on Thursday for the sheriff’s office.

The commissioners paid $5.4 million for the 25,000 square-foot Zero In Indoor Shooting Center, which sits on 6.5 acres near the intersection of Jackrabbit and West Baxter lanes.

The county plans to spend an additional $400,000 from its capital improvements fund to renovate the building, said Sheriff Brian Gootkin. Upgrades will likely include adding computer equipment and converting retail space to offices.

Four of the seven sheriff’s office divisions — patrol, training, special operations and the Missouri River Drug Task Force — will move from the Law and Justice Center on South 16th Street in Bozeman to the new building, Gootkin said. The divisions will likely relocate next year.

The sheriff’s office also plans to use the gun range and simulation room in the building for training and will likely charge other law enforcement agencies to use the facility.

Some of the undeveloped land on the Zero In property will eventually be used for a helipad and a new building for Gallatin County Search and Rescue. The new building will provide room for search and rescue to expand and will free up space at the county’s emergency coordination center for the backup 911 dispatch center.

The Zero In property lies next to the Gallatin County Road and Bridge Department, so it is a prime spot for future expansion of other county services, said county commissioner Scott MacFarlane.

Gootkin said the Zero In property’s location is ideal for the sheriff’s office because it is more centrally located than the Law and Justice Center. About 60% of the office’s calls for service occur within a 9-mile radius of Four Corners, and as development in the county continues west, that percentage will likely increase.

The sheriff’s office relocation will free up space in the Law and Justice Center, which officials have said is unsafe and over capacity. The county doesn’t yet have specific plans for that space.

The move also will likely mean the replacement of the Law and Justice Center, which the county has been working on for years, will cost $10 million less than it would have otherwise.

“(Zero In) is a perfect long-term investment. We’re solving a problem we’ve been trying to solve for more than a decade in smaller chunks,” MacFarlane said.

“Instead of one larger $50 million or $60 million package … we’re doing this in smaller batches and (in) a more efficient way. And (we’re) buying built footage for cheaper than we can build it today.”

The county used coronavirus relief reimbursements from the state to free up local tax dollars for the purchase.

The state set aside some of the $1.25 billion in aid from the federal government to repay local governments for coronavirus-related costs, including for law enforcement and detention center services.

However, as the county had previously budgeted for costs related to law enforcement and detention center, it was able to use the federal dollars to help pay for the Zero In property at 93 Laura Louise Lane.

The sale came together quickly.

County officials first discussed it in September. They then took a tour of the building and worked with a real estate agent before deciding to move ahead with the purchase. On Thursday, the commissioners officially signed closing paperwork for the property.

“The undersheriff found something that we knew immediately to be unique, that we knew we would probably never see again,” MacFarlane said. “…We knew it was kind of a now or never thing.”

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Perrin Stein can be reached at pstein@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2648.

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