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By the middle of May, the steel structure of the new federal courthouse in downtown Billings will be finished and the walls should be going up.

The $59 million building project is on time and on budget, according to officials with the General Services Administration, the agency that is in charge of building the courthouse.

GSA project manager Michelle Hotaling said pre-cast concrete panels are already being installed on the building. The panels are “super-insulated,” which is one of the energy-saving features going into the building, Hotaling said. The courthouse is aiming for a LEED Gold certification, the second-highest building rating for sustainability.

“When you look at it compared to our federal courthouse portfolio, it’s highly sustainable,” Hotaling said of the new building. “We’re targeting a minimum of a 35 percent reduction in energy use.”

There are about 60 people working on the project on any day, but that number will increase as the building is enclosed and subcontractors begin work on the interior. Mortenson Construction is the general contractor, while many smaller companies are doing subcontracting work.

When the building is finished in late 2012, the U.S. District Court, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Marshals Service will move from the James F. Battin Federal Courthouse to the new courthouse. The Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Reclamation, the other agencies in the Battin courthouse, will move into a second federal building yet to be built.

Mike Owens, GSA’s regional recovery executive, said the goal is to have both new buildings finished around the same time.

The fate of the Battin building hasn’t been decided. GSA has several options, including sale, demolition and turning it over to local government agencies. The building is laden with asbestos, so anyone considering renovating the building had better have an impressive bank account.

Owens said GSA would announce the location of the second building sometime this summer. It could be a new building or an existing building renovated for GSA’s use. Either way, it will be privately owned and will pay property taxes.

Contact Matt Hagengruber at mhagengruber@billingsgazette.com or 657-1261.

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