Open house planned for new federal courthouse

2012-09-15T00:00:00Z 2014-08-25T09:40:00Z Open house planned for new federal courthouseBy CLAIR JOHNSON cjohnson@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

The new $80 million federal courthouse in downtown Billings will open officially next week with the public invited to an open house on Monday evening.

Hosted by the U.S. District Court, the open house will run from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at 2601 Second Ave. N., said Patrick Duffy, clerk of court. The public will be limited to the areas where the public normally would be allowed during work hours, such as lobbies, courtrooms and the jury assembly area, he said.

A formal dedication ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday morning by invitation only because of space limitations and security considerations, Duffy said.

Judge Thomas Hogan, director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts in Washington, D.C. and former chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, will be the featured speaker at the dedication, Duffy said.

While discussion and planning for a new courthouse has been in the works for at least six years, officials said the 27 months it took to deliver the building from design and construction to the first day of court is the fastest of a modern courthouse. Construction began in October 2010.

Built by Mortenson Construction, a Minnesota-based firm, and funded by stimulus money from the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the courthouse is the new home for the Billings Division of the U.S. District Court in Montana, the Clerk of Court, U.S. Probation and Parole, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Attorney’s Office and General Services Administration.

“The successful design and construction process of the Billings courthouse underscores the value and efficiency of our lean design-build process,” said Jim Yowan, vice president of Mortenson. “As a leader in the construction of federal facilities, we are proud to have helped deliver such an iconic project for the Billings community in record time,” he said.

The fast-paced project was the result of a variety of practices and technology geared toward construction efficiency that boosted safety and quality while saving time and money, Yowan said.

Building a new courthouse normally would take six years to seven years, said Sarah Blanchard, a spokeswoman for Mortenson.

“This investment underscores GSA’s dedication to Billings and the state of Montana, our customers and the Montana business community,” said Sue Damour, GSA’s Rocky Mountain regional administrator.

The project contributed more than $40 million to the local economy, GSA said. The agency awarded more than 60 percent of the project to Montana businesses, with much of the work going to small businesses. At least 50 percent of the subcontracted work was required to go to small business.

The energy-efficient, 128,742 square-foot building is designed to use 30 percent less energy than a typical building of the same size. The courthouse has super-insulated walls, a triple-glazed window system and high-performance lighting and landscaping that includes natural grasses that require less water. The building is on track to achieve a silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Meanwhile, the old James F. Battin Federal Courthouse, located about a block north of the new courthouse, will be put up for sale in an online public auction sometime next spring.

Sally Mayberry, a GSA spokeswoman, said the agency has finished its screening of federal, state and local agencies and homeless service providers and found no takers for the large, five-story building. A notice announcing a proposed sale in the spring of 2013 has been posted at www.propertydisposal.gsa.gov. More information about the sale will be posted when it becomes available, she said.

The Battin courthouse has a history of asbestos problems that ultimately prompted the construction of the new courthouse. GSA has said it is disposing of the old courthouse “as is.”

GSA also awarded a $30 million contact to The Boyer Co. of Salt Lake City to build a federal office building at 2021 Fourth Ave. N. The office will house about 400 U.S. Department of Interior employees who work in the Battin courthouse. Completion is planned for summer of 2013. GSA will lease the building.

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