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As Bozeman’s population grows, locals have watched shiny, big buildings popping up everywhere — condo and apartment complexes downtown; new, state-of-the-art K-12 schools; dazzling new Montana State University buildings paid for with breathtaking donations from alums.

All this while our most important courts of law are jammed into a rickety old high school that poses serious safety risks to those who work or visit there.

This fall Gallatin County commissioners are asking voters to approve a $29 million levy to fund a new building for those courts. A new court will be added next year to Gallatin County’s three state district courts. These are the courts that adjudicate our most important cases — felony crime, lawsuits, divorces, adoptions. And they have been housed in the substandard building for far too long.

Voters should pass this measure. The need is more than urgent. It has become dire.

The county shared the existing facility with the city for decades. Efforts to replace it began with an ambitious city-county proposal to build a new shared facility. That failed. The city then successfully persuaded voters to fund a new safety building to house police, fire and municipal courts, those that deal with misdemeanors and city ordinance violations.

After that, the county asked voters for a $59 million levy to house state district and justice courts along with the Sheriff’s Department. But voters rejected that measure, seen by some as too expensive.

Commissioners heard the voters and got creative. They purchased a building near Four Corners to house much of the Sheriff’s Department. And they scaled back plans for a new building, cutting the request to voters by almost half.

Those efforts should be rewarded. The proposal has been cut substantially. The levy will cost $33.50 a year for the owner of a home with a taxable value of $500,000. But that will go down as the county’s tax base grows and the county retires the debt for its Detention Center in few years.

This is a necessary expense. Effective district courts are essential to the integrity of our justice system and they must have an adequate facility in which to operate. The existing building is a safety threat to everyone who works there and the many members of the public who visit there daily.

Voters are urged to approve the Gallatin County Courts Building bond issue.


Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Michael Wright, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Charles Rinker, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

To send feedback on editorials, either leave a comment on the page below or write to citydesk@dailychronicle.com.

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Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Michael Wright, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

To send feedback on editorials, write to citydesk@dailychronicle.com.