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Government & Politics

Gallatin County Voters Reject Bond For New Law And Justice Center

The Gallatin County Law and Justice Center in Bozeman, Montana, June 26, 2019.
Rachel Cramer
Yellowstone Public Radio
Voters rejected a $59 million bond measure to replace the aging Law and Justice Center in Bozeman, Montana, November 5, 2019.

Voters in Gallatin County Tuesday rejected a $59 million bond measure to replace the aging Law and Justice Center in Bozeman. 

Fifty-five percent of voters turned down a property tax increase that would have helped pay for a new Law and Justice Center.

“I was disappointed,” Gallatin County Commissioner Don Seifert said. 

“This is an issue that’s been on the table for a number of years. It’s not going to go away so we need to just kind of reassess what the voters said and plot a new path forward," Seifert said. 

Employees housed in the current Law and Justice Center say the facility, which was originally built as a high school in 1961, is not up to code and is too small to meet the county’s growing needs.

They also say the building is poorly designed, which creates confidentiality and safety issues. Victims, inmates and the general public use the same hallways and elevators. Smells from the morgue sometimes float up into offices and courtrooms.

The county tried to pass a bond in 2016 for a new joint facility with the city of Bozeman but it failed. Bozeman decided to build its own public safety center with a bond approved by voters last year.

“I think there was some confusion between what services the new city of Bozeman facility is going to provide and then what the proposed Gallatin County Law and Justice Center provides. There’s really no duplication services in those buildings,” Seifert said. 

Once completed, the Bozeman Public Safety Center will house the city’s police department and municipal courts, whereas the county’s Law and Justice Center includes the sheriff’s office, district and juvenile courts, the coroner’s office and the clerk of district court’s office.