City commissioners will decide Monday whether to swap land with the Montana Department of Transportation in order to build a new city police and courts facility.
The MDT land is a little more than eight acres at the corner of North Rouse and Oak. The city's plot is 12 acres, the Water Reclamation Facility at Nelson and Frontage Road. That land is no longer being used since the construction of the new water treatment facility.
"We have room for people to work in here, we have room for growth, we have room for the public's interaction, we have some meeting rooms in here...We are really excited about this," says Bozeman Assistant Manager Chuck Winn.
Winn showed us designs for a new city police and courts facility.
For years, he says they spent time working with the county to try to keep city police and courts at the Law and Justice Center site. But discussion broke down.
"Gallatin County isn't in that same time frame as the city," says Winn.
Winn tells us they're past due in addressing the needs of a police and court facility with 65 sworn officers in 4,500 square feet of space. Plus, he says they'll need quite a bit of room, while accounting for growth.
"It's putting a lot of stuff on that property and it's kind of like jamming it in, in a lot of ways," explains Winn.
The city's move towards a new facility means they might not share a police and court facility with the county for much longer.
We sat down with Gallatin County Commissioner Joe Skinner to see how the county's priorities differed.
"They had certain things they wanted and the county had certain things we wanted," says Skinner.
Skinner explains the county wanted close to market price for the land. He adds, the county wasn't ready to ask voters for a bond. While the city needed space, Skinner says he thinks they could have come to an agreement.
"I think it came down a lot to the city just didn't want to pay the price we were asking...The city decided they could do it cheaper and more effective and, according to them, more time effective at a different spot," explains Skinner.
Now, the city is looking to the land exchange to give police and courts the space they need.
For the city, the 8.2 acres at Rouse and Oak is close to the center of town and gives them access to major transportation routes. He says it's also an opportunity to turn industrial-type use land into a vital public safety facility.
Meanwhile, Winn says MDT recently got a hold of money from the legislature to build a new shop. It's why he says a land exchange with the Montana Department of Transportation will be advantageous for both parties.
Yet, before the city can move forward with the exchange, commissioners must come to one or both of two findings.
"One is that the piece of property that the city's going to sell or exchange is no longer needed for the public. The second thing is that the exchange furthers the public interest," Winn says.
Winn says, the city believes both are true in this case.
Provided commissioners decide to move forward in the process, the next step is the official land exchange. That wouldn't take place until January.
If the exchange goes through, Winn says the city will need to take a bond to voters, that's like not going to happen until the fall of 2014. If it passes, the city can begin construction on the new facility in the Spring of 2015.
Winn tells us MDT is in the process of hiring an architect now and they are set to begin construction in the spring of 2014.
There's one more catch, state law requires any property state exchanges have to be of a like value.
While the appraisal process is ongoing, Winn tells us it's likely the Rouse and Oak location will be worth a little more than the now defunct Water Reclamation Facility site. However, Winn says they've budgeted $1 million for the acquisition so, they'll be able to run city services to the site at Nelson and Frontage to bring up its value.