Bozeman P.D. run tours of Law and Justice Center in push for new - ABC FOX Montana Local News, Weather, Sports KTMF | KWYB

Bozeman P.D. run tours of Law and Justice Center in push for new building

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BOZEMAN - Bozeman’s public services continue to fight a long battle with the public to build a new safety center for the city.

But with a nearly $36.9 million price tag, they’re hoping to inspire some understanding for the project by inviting residents to see for themselves why a new Public Safety Center is so vital to the community.

Last week, Fire Chief Josh Waldo organized a tour of Fire Station #1 to raise awareness in the community about why they’re struggling to work in the current fire station. This week, Police Chief Steve Crawford is taking Bozeman residents on a tour of the city’s Law and Justice Center for the same reason.

A new Public Safety Center in Bozeman has long felt like a pipe dream for Bozeman’s public servants. The measure has already been brought before the public two times, with the ballot initiative failing on both occasions.

But they’re determined, and public servants are appealing to the public once again.

Relics from the past give away the Law and Justice Center’s secret. It’s more than 55 years old.

But with some buildings in downtown Bozeman nearly twice that age still standing, the Law and Justice Center is young, comparatively.

So, why is the city so keen on a new facility?

Officials say this isn’t about a want, but a need.

Bozeman Police Chief Steve Crawford explains that there’s multiple reasons why the current building doesn’t work.

“This is a building that was originally built as a Catholic high school, and we are literally out of space,” he says.

Crawford pointed out one room in the Law and Justice Center that started as a hallway. Now, it’s the filing room, holding nearly all of the court’s files. Or it did, until they ran out of space.

Now, some of those case files are stored in the juror’s room, which also functions as a break room for court employees.

“And then on top of that,” Crawford says, “it’s a building that was never built to be an emergency services building. So it’s not built to those standards.”

And it’s not just the lack of space that’s police are struggling with, but where open space is.

“With it being designed as a school, there is no separate circulation for persons that are in custody and members of the public and victims,” explains Crawford. “And that’s a real travesty.”

Crawford says that with the current "public" layout, there's a lot of behind-the-scenes juggling required to ensure that victims aren't running into their perpetrators, especially outside of what could be their own court cases. And when jurors are involved, it gets even more messy. If a juror sees a victim or defendant outside of the court room, he says it could tarnish the integrity of the court system.

Crawford hopes a new building would allow a design that's conducive to separating those groups.

The new Bozeman Public Safety Center, built on the grounds of the old MDT building in north Bozeman (at the corner of E. Oak and N. Rouse), would hold all of the city's public services: fire, police, courts, and victim's services.

The police department has begun inviting the public on tours of the current facilities, which are led by Crawford.

He explains the reasoning behind the tours, saying: "We just want to give the opportunity for the public to come in and see the spaces that the officers are working in, and the court. And let them learn more for themselves about the existing facility and then answer any questions that they may have about the proposed Public Safety Center as well."

Chief Crawford says he doesn't want to tell residents how to vote, he simply wants to inform their decisions.

Audrey Wooding, a longtime Bozeman resident and participant of the first tour through the Law and Justice Center, said she'll be telling her friends to see the center in-person for themselves, too.

"I hope that other people come to these tours," she said. "I think it's important to see what's going on in your community, and I got a lot of value from it today."

If the public passes the bond for the Bozeman Public Safety Center in November, the average Bozeman homeowner will pay about $100/year more in taxes.

And officials say that with the public's approval, construction could begin as soon as early 2019, with the center opening in late 2020.

Tours will take place at the current Law and Justice Center every Wednesday in August 2018 at 5:15 PM. Tours will begin in the building's lobby.

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