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Stillwater windows

Workers re-install one of more than 700 windows on March 1 in the former James F. Battin Federal Courthouse, now called the Stillwater Building.

Yellowstone County commissioners on Tuesday approved a lease for the third floor of the neighboring Stillwater Building for expansion.

The commission unanimously approved a five-year lease, with a five-year renewal option for between 16,000 and 17,500 square feet of office space.

The Stillwater Building, owned by WC Commercial LLC is the former federal courthouse at 316 N. 26th St., which is north, across the street, from the county courthouse.

Commissioners selected the Stillwater Building during its Nov. 14 meeting. The action on Tuesday was to approve the lease.

The county will be moving its fourth-floor offices to the new location so it can remodel the floor into courtroom space for two new district court judges authorized for the 13th Judicial District.

The fourth floor offices include commissioners, clerk and recorder, auditor and finance. Other departments, like human resources, also may be moving.

WC Commercial’s lease proposal ranked at the top of a list of proposals submitted by six vendors. Three proposals were rejected because they were either too expensive or unsuitable. Plenty of parking and a half-block walk to either building made Stillwater’s proposal the most convenient for the public, county officials said.

The lease terms include a base rent of $15 per square foot with a 3 percent annual lease increase.

The lease is a build-to-suit agreement, with EEC constructing the office space as the county wants. County departments are expected to meet with commissioners and others on Monday to discuss office needs and design.

WC Commercial bought the large, five-story building for $3.2 million in a 2016 foreclosure sale, abated the asbestos and gutted the entire structure. Stillwater has been seeking renters, and the county is the company's first anchor tenant.

The Billings City Council also recently approved up to $1.5 million in tax increment finance assistance for the Stillwater Building for major infrastructure upgrades.

The county offices have to be moved out by April 1, 2018, so remodeling can occur and be completed in time for the new judges, who will take office in January 2019.

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Federal Court, Yellowtone County Reporter

Federal court and county reporter for The Billings Gazette.