Sheriff's Dept. New Building

County Commissioner Scott MacFarlane and former Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin speak to the press about the Gallatin County Commission’s decision to purchase an indoor range to house the sheriff’s office on Thursday in Four Corners.

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The partial relocation of the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office to a former shooting range in Four Corners is moving forward.

The Gallatin County Commission this week approved $489,000 to remodel the 25,000-square-foot Zero In Indoor Shooting Center, a building on 6.5 acres near the intersection of Jackrabbit and West Baxter lanes.

Planned upgrades include converting retail space to offices and adding information technology infrastructure, said Undersheriff Jeremy Kopp.

Kopp said he is not sure when the office will move to Four Corners given construction uncertainties in Gallatin County, but he hopes it will be this summer.

Once the remodel is complete, four of the seven divisions at the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office — patrol, training, special operations and the Missouri River Drug Task Force — will move from the Law and Justice Center on South 16th Avenue in Bozeman to the new building at 93 Laura Louise Lane.

The sheriff’s office also plans to use the gun range and simulation room in the new building for training.

Kopp said the Zero In property is ideal for the sheriff’s office because it is more centrally located and has the space and infrastructure for hosting training events, which can be difficult to find.

“It makes sense for our hub to be in the center of the county rather than in the middle of Bozeman,” he said.

Some of the undeveloped land on the Zero In property will eventually be home to a new building for Gallatin County Search and Rescue, using money from a tax hike voters approved in June. There is no timeline for when search and rescue will make the move.

The county used coronavirus relief reimbursements from the state to make local dollars available for the purchase.

The state set aside some of the $1.25 billion it received from the federal government this past year to reimburse local governments for coronavirus-related costs, including first responders’ salaries and benefits. But because Gallatin County had already budgeted for first responders, it was able to use the money it had intended for first responders to pay for the Zero In property.

The sheriff’s office relocation will make more space available in the Law and Justice Center. The county doesn’t yet know how it will use the newly available space but likely won’t make any major changes until the city of Bozeman moves out of the Law and Justice Center and into its new public safety center in 2022.

“Then, we’ll be doing a lot of reshuffling,” said Commissioner Zach Brown.

Even with the city’s and the sheriff’s office moves, Brown said the Law and Justice Center doesn’t have enough space to meet the county’s needs.

“The current facility is inadequate from a space perspective, but even if it had enough space, it is out-of-date and unsafe for employees.”

The decision to relocate part of the sheriff’s office to Four Corners is part of a broader rethinking of how to replace the Law and Justice Center, following the repeated failure of bond issues for the project.

County commissioners have begun meeting with architects to decide how to update or replace the existing building but are a long way from making any decisions, Brown said.

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

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