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Just when you thought it was quiet again at the Yellowstone County courthouse, there’s talk of more remodeling.

County commissioners agreed Friday to seek bids for an architectural firm for the latest courthouse project.

For months, county officials have been discussing how to free up office space for new employees in the Yellowstone County attorney’s office. The office expansion follows approval of a public-safety mill levy last November.

A $1.7 million renovation to the first three floors of the courthouse was completed earlier this year, but that didn’t entirely solve the courthouse space problem.

Last spring, commissioners looked into constructing a new public works building on King Avenue East as a way to free up space in the courthouse. But they killed the idea after construction bids exceeded the $300,000 budget by at least $100,000.

The latest proposal calls for remodeling office space on the second floor for prosecutors. The Human Resources Department would move from the second floor to the third floor, occupying space now used by the law library, and the law library would be moved to a storage area on the eighth floor. The proposal also calls for remodeling the sixth-floor courtroom of District Judge G. Todd Baugh to accommodate people with disabilities, said Jim Kraft, Yellowstone County’s director of emergency and general services.

Kraft said that the new remodeling project will cost around $300,000.

County officials have discussed a variety of office arrangements, including leasing off-site space for county prosecutors or the law library. Commissioner James A. “Ziggy” Ziegler said Friday that he wants the law library to remain in the courthouse.

The new eighth-floor location for the law library will be about half the size of the current 1,500 square-foot space.

District Judge Diane Barz said keeping the law library in the courthouse provides an essential public service. More and more people are representing themselves in legal cases, and the law library is an essential resource for them. Attorneys who provide free legal service to needy clients frequently use the law library as a meeting room, Barz said.Tom Howard can be reached at 657-1261 or at thoward@billingsgazette.com

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