Gallatin County Voters to Decide on Bond for New Courts Facility

For immediate release: August 3, 2021

This fall, Gallatin County voters will decide on a bond to build a safer, more efficient courts facility that will serve all Gallatin County citizens.

The Gallatin County Commission unanimously voted today to put a $29 million bond on the general election ballot this November.

The bond will be used to replace the current Law and Justice Center, located in Bozeman, with a new single-story, 57,000-square-foot building that will house the following:

  • District Courts (including an additional courtroom and space for Gallatin County’s incoming fourth District Court judge)
  • Justice Courts
  • Youth Court
  • Standing Master
  • Clerk of District Court
  • Self Help Law Center
  • Public community room

Property taxes on a home with an assessed market value of $500,000 would increase by $33.50 per year. However, that amount would decrease each year as more property taxpayers move into our rapidly growing county.

Gallatin County Commission Chairman Scott MacFarlane said that “a new court building is the only cost-effective solution to Gallatin County’s short-term and long-term needs for safe and efficient courts.”

MacFarlane called the proposal a responsible solution to the issues facing the current courts facility, problems that have been impacting taxpayers for two decades and that will persist as Gallatin County continues growing.

“This is our most responsible and best project to solve the court needs,” MacFarlane said.

Commissioner Joe Skinner noted that voters have rejected two previous proposals to replace the building, but said the county has listened to voters and found unique and creative ways to cut down project costs and still address the courts’ needs.

“I really think we got it right this time,” Skinner said. “This is the right project at the right time. I’m happy to be able to put this on the ballot.”

Commissioner Zach Brown said this project is “fundamentally a need, it is not a want,” noting that the county must find space to house an incoming fourth District Court judge recently funded by the Montana Legislature.

“Our justice system is a constitutionally protected and mandated service. It’s fundamental to the way our economy and democracy work,” Brown said. “I’m really looking forward to having a robust conversation with taxpayers about this project between now and November.”

When a replacement building was proposed in 2019, the price was $60 million. By using value engineering, strategic design and a smaller footprint, the new construction plan will reduce the cost to $38 million. But taxpayers will pay less. Gallatin County has been saving for this project and will cover about 25% of the construction at no additional cost to the taxpayers. And the county was able to purchase a new facility for Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office operations, making this proposal even smaller. In effect, the total bond—that is, the cost to the taxpayers—has been reduced to $29 million.

The current Law and Justice Center was built in 1961 as a Catholic high school and later retrofitted into a law enforcement and courts facility. The structural integrity of the building is compromised and it lacks a fire suppression system. This endangers thousands of citizens who utilize the building every month – from those serving our community working there daily, to those serving their civic jury duty, getting married, being granted adoptions, seeking orders of protection, and those settling life-altering disputes.

There is also a lack of space in the current building. There are not enough courtrooms – which the county is constitutionally mandated to provide to our state-allocated judges – or administrative space to handle current caseloads. The 2021 Montana Legislature approved funding for a fourth District Court judge, who is slate to arrive as soon as January 2022, and the county must provide space for that judge and their staff.

This current lack of space means civil court cases can see wait times for adjudication stretch into years, at the expense of our area businesses.

This also means extended wait times for criminal trials, meaning defendants spend longer in jail or on pretrial supervision, both of which are expenses passed on to taxpayers.

And for victims involved in criminal trials who are seeking justice so they can move forward with their lives, their day in court becomes a far-too distant point on the horizon.

In addition to the human cost of an inefficient, unsafe justice center, construction costs in Gallatin County are increasing by an estimated 10% year over year. This same project proposed in the future is likely to cost much more.

Ballots for the 2021 general election will be mailed on Oct. 13. They will be due back no later than 8 PM on Election Day – Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021.

More information on the bond will be available on our website, gallatin.mt.gov. And more information on November’s election and how to register to vote can be found at gallatinvotes.com.

Media contact:
Whitney Bermes, Gallatin County Communications Coordinator
Cell: 406-595-8963
whitney.bermes@gallatin.mt.gov

Gallatin County 911 Experiencing Issues Receiving Calls

For immediate release: July 29, 2021

Gallatin County 911 is currently experiencing issues receiving calls to our dispatchers. 
 
While it is not a complete outage, many calls are not going through and callers may be getting a busy signal when they dial 911. We have heard reports this is also happening in other area counties.
 
If you receive a busy signal, continue to call or utilize text to 911. To text our dispatchers, create a new text message. Enter “911” into the “To” field. No dashes are necessary. In this text message, include the location of the emergency (including city/name of business/park/fishing access/trailhead/interstates/highways/mile marker, etc.) the nature of the emergency, and your name.
 
Thank you for your patience while we diligently work to get these issues resolved as quickly as possible. We will update the community as soon as we have more information to share.
Media contact:
Whitney Bermes, Gallatin County Communications Coordinator
Cell: 406-595-8963
whitney.bermes@gallatin.mt.gov

Mud Bog Returns to Big Sky Country State Fair

For immediate release: July 22, 2021

Big Sky Country State Fair will bring the roar of engines to Bozeman on July 24 as part of its show lineup. Presented by the Mountaineers 4×4 Club and The Moose, the Mud Bog returns with all its dirt-loving action all afternoon.

See the full press release here.

Media contact:
Amanda Hartman, Gallatin County Fairgrounds Marketing & Sponsorship Coordinator
Amanda.Hartman@gallatin.mt.gov

County Wide Burn Ban in Effect in Gallatin County

 

For immediate release: July 20, 2021

Due to historically dry fuel levels, ongoing drought conditions and a lack of firefighting resources regionally, the Gallatin County Commission has signed an emergency ordinance banning burning and other activities that increase the risk of wildfire in Gallatin County.

The ordinance went into effect immediately and will remain in effect for 90 days until the commission rescinds it.

See the full ordinance here.

“Since our firefighters are out there doing their best to protect our communities and homes, and putting their lives at risk, the rest of us can do our part to prevent starting any new fires,” said Commissioner Zach Brown. “We’re on track for really rough conditions and relief is not exactly in sight.”

The following acts are prohibited in Gallatin County, excluding only those lands under the jurisdiction of federal, state or municipal agencies:

  • Open burning
  • Recreational fires, excluding petroleum-fueled devices that can be turned immediately on and off with no element that continues to burn
  • Use of any firework, explosive or incendiary device
  • Smoking outside an enclosed vehicle or building, unless the smoking occurs in an area at least three feet in diameter that is clear of all flammable material
  • Operating motorized vehicles off a road or trail, except for an agricultural or utility activity (e.g. maintaining livestock, maintaining water facilities, or utility maintenance work), and forestry management on private land (e.g. thinning and clearing trees and brush) for fuel reduction and fire mitigation.

Although not prohibited by this ordinance, people are also recommended to refrain from shooting firearms outside of developed shooting ranges clear of natural vegetation.

Again, these restrictions are for Gallatin County. Please check with your city or town for local restrictions. And note that additional restrictions are going into effect on the Custer Gallatin National Forest this week, most notably that there will be no campfires allowed whatsoever, even in designated sites.

Gallatin County Commissioners took a number of factors into account when enacting this burn ban.

The Energy Release Component values for Gallatin County indicate that vegetation in the area is at historically dry levels and vulnerable to rapid fire growth. These values for Gallatin County have exceeded the historical maximums and are projected to continue exceeding the maximums until fall.

Graph provided by the Northern Rockies Coordination Center.

Montana’s firefighting resources are stretched thin due to numerous wildfires burning across the region, impacting the ability to respond to a large wildfire if one were to start in our area.

And ongoing high heat, high winds, low humidity and high fire danger are predicted to continue in the short and long term.

“No one wants a fire in our community and now is the time for people think about what they are doing and help keep our area fire free,” said Patrick Lonergan, Gallatin County Chief of Emergency Management and Fire.

Lonergan notes that activities being banned have all started large fires in our area in recent years.

“Fires often start from routine activities that the person never thought twice about. This is a summer to think twice about what you are doing and avoid activities that could result in a fire,” he said.

Sheriff Dan Springer said he supports the commission’s decision to enact the burn ban and urges citizens and visitors to be responsible.

“All public safety resources across the state are spread thin due to multiple fires and multiple evacuations,” Springer said. “With the public’s cooperation, we know we can limit the likelihood of having significant fires in our community.”

Media contact:
Whitney Bermes, Gallatin County Communications Coordinator
Cell: 406-595-8963
whitney.bermes@gallatin.mt.gov

4-H Livestock Animals in the Barns All Week At Big Sky Country State Fair

 

For immediate release: July 19, 2021

The number one reason people come to the fair is to see the animals! This year fair goers can have the experience all week long with 4-H livestock in the barns Wednesday through Sunday.

See the full press release here.

Media contact:
Amanda Hartman, Gallatin County Fairgrounds Marketing & Sponsorship Coordinator
Amanda.Hartman@gallatin.mt.gov

Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office Investigates Animal Cruelty Incident

On July 6th, Gallatin County Sheriff’s deputies investigated a call regarding animal cruelty.  The caller reported that a dog had been tied to a bumper and was dragged over half a mile down Jackrabbit Lane before the collar came apart and the dog was set loose.  Deputies searched for the dog and found Marley in the ditch.  As the deputies approached, Marley lifted its head and showed a strong will to live.  Marley was then taken to receive emergency vet care.

Our office is conducting a full investigation of the incident.  In the meantime, Marley is being well cared for and is expected to make a full recovery but Marley has extensive injuries and will need care for quite some time.

A Go Fund Me has been set up to help with Marley’s vet care.  https://gofund.me/2f10804a

Upcoming Public Meetings on Draft of Gallatin County Growth Policy

Gallatin County Planning Department

For immediate release: July 14, 2021

The latest draft of the Gallatin County Growth Policy will be going before the Gallatin County Commission for review and public comment over the next few weeks.
The hearings will be held in the Community Room of the Gallatin County Courthouse, 311 W. Main St. in downtown Bozeman and via Zoom. The Zoom meeting information for each hearing can be found at the links below. *Please note – the meeting information will be posted on these links the Friday before the meetings occur.*

Tuesday, July 20 – 9 AM: https://gallatincomt.virtualtownhall.net/home/events/23756

Tuesday, July 27 – 9 AM: https://gallatincomt.virtualtownhall.net/home/events/23761

The draft document is available on the project website at www.envisiongallatin.com.

If you are unable to attend any of these meetings and would like to submit comments, please feel free to send comments directly to the project manager, Garrett McAllister, at garrett.mcallister@gallatin.mt.gov.
Media contact:
Garrett McAllister, Long Range Planner and Project Manager with Gallatin County Planning Department
406-582-3130
garrett.mcallister@gallatin.mt.gov

Big Sky Country State Fair Offering Motorized Rides Within Fairgrounds

For immediate release: July 13, 2021

In partnership with the Bozeman business Qualicare, the Big Sky Country State Fair has created a program that provides motorized cart rides to destination points within the fairgrounds.

See the full press release here.

Media contact:
Amanda Hartman, Gallatin County Fairgrounds Marketing & Sponsorship Coordinator
Amanda.Hartman@gallatin.mt.gov

7.11.2021 Hell Roaring Trail Rescue

On Sunday, July 11, 2021 at approximately 1:50 pm, Gallatin County Sheriff Search and Rescue had volunteers respond from the Valley and Big Sky to a request for aid from a rider that had come off their horse on the Hell Roaring Trail. The individual, who was out on a day ride, fell off their horse causing injuries that required assistance making it back to the trailhead.

 

Search and Rescue volunteers, along with Gallatin Gateway Fire, responded using a single wheel litter and were able to transport the injured individual safely out to an awaiting AMR ambulance. 

 

Sheriff Springer would like to remind everyone recreating outdoors to try and travel with a friend, carry a reliable means of communication, and to have back up plans in case something unforeseen happens.

 

Photos courtesy of Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office