Yellowstone County Commissioners To Vote On Floor Plans For Stillwater Building

BILLINGS - With two new judges approved for Yellowstone County and the likelihood more will be on the way, the county needs office space. 

In November, county commissioners voted to approve a move of much of their administrative offices to the newly-renovated Stillwater Building in downtown Billings. On Tuesday, they will vote to finalize floor plans for the place.

The county, which plans to occupy much of the building's third floor, will be the first tenant in the recently gutted building, formerly the James F. Battin Federal Courthouse.

The move will include their administrative offices, which are currently on the fourth floor of the Yellowstone County Courthouse. Some of the departments that will move include the clerk and recorders office, the county commissioners, and public works and disaster and emergency services.

The empty fourth floor will then be renovated to include judges' chambers and courtrooms to accommodate the two new district court judges approved by the Montana Legislature.

"This whole floor will be full of court space and judges' chambers," said Kevan Bryan, the county's finance director. "We think it is going to cover the next 10 years, just like we think the space we are getting over at the Stillwater will cover us for at least that long."

Bryan said they will make room for four judges' chambers, in the event the state grants the county more district judges to deal with an increasing caseload.  Currently, the county only has half the recommended number of judges.

Bryan said the county looked at other options, but found the best solution was right across the street. They will be able to make this transition, without having to ask taxpayers for anything.

"We've been working to make sure we live within the means we've been given by the taxpayers," said Bryan. "We will be building out this floor at the cost of a couple of million dollars without asking for any more money from anybody, we will be moving over without any increase from anybody just like we got the jail done without a tax increase."

Bryan said the choice to move Public Works and DES, which are not on the fourth floor, is strategic as well, because it will allow for more expansion for other departments in need.

"We are moving a few more departments with us just so there is some room for county attorney expansion, clerk of court expansion, which is going to come when you bring more judges online."

The county hopes to move into its new space in May.

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