First, the good news. Today, Bozeman is a safe community. In terms of crime, Bozeman is the safest large city in Montana. In addition, Bozeman’s fire department has been ranked in the top two percent across the country; with an average response time for emergency calls of six minutes; which helps keep us safe and lowers commercial insurance rates.
We value these public safety successes and want to maintain them and the quality of life important to local businesses, workers, and families.
As we all know, Bozeman is growing, and the annual population growth rate of 4.3% is the highest in Montana. At current rates, Bozeman’s population is expected to reach 50,000 by the year 2020, and double by 2040.
This growth has significantly increased demand for emergency services. Since the Bozeman police department moved into its current building in 1994--when it occupied an old Catholic High School--the number of sworn officers has increased from 25 to 65 today. On the fire side, response calls have increased by 59% since just 2011. City courts also have seen an exploding caseload, and now average more than 9,000 cases each year
In addition to increased demand for safety services, the buildings that house Bozeman police and fire are aging. Both are more than 50 years old, in constant need of repair, and no longer have the capacity to provide adequate space for public safety personnel.
So now is the time for a cost-effective investment in Bozeman’s emergency and public safety services—for the present and the future.
Bozeman is proposing a 4-in-1 solution, with a Public Safety Center that would house police, fire, city courts, and victim services and prosecutors in one location at the corner of Rouse and Oak Streets. This solution, with room to grow in the future, will meet the city’s highest obligation, keep citizens safe, and will do so in a way that holds down taxpayer costs and increases efficiency.
First, combining these services in one building—and sharing services and grounds--is much less expensive than separate buildings.
In addition, the City already owns the land, so the investment is strictly for infrastructure with a total building and equipment cost of $36.9 million, or $101.78 per year for the typical homeowner.
Bozeman has a high bond rating, so it can borrow at low cost and the per household cost of the bond will decrease each year as the city grows. Another consideration is that construction inflation, now at 6%, adds more than $2.2 million each year to future building costs.
Also, Bozeman will sell Fire Station #1 (at Rouse and Mendenhall) and move into the new building, using the expected $2.5-$3 million sale proceeds to offset bond costs. In addition, the property now holding the current Fire Station #1 could then be added back to the tax rolls. Moving the fire station also helps the fire department better meet its six-minute response time goal and will delay the construction of a fourth fire station for 7-10 years; a significant savings as each fire station costs $7-10 million to build and $1.2 million annually for equipment and operating.
Bozeman police and fire already respond to many calls together, and the new facility will increase joint training, resources and storage. In addition, the new Center will increase the safety within our courtrooms and jury rooms, and screening stations will protect against weapons inside courtrooms.
Bozeman Emergency Services will continue a healthy and cooperative relationship with the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Services. Also, Gallatin County commissioners have written the City of Bozeman support of the proposed Public Safety Center. Bozeman is not building a jail as Gallatin County already operates a jail for the region.
The Bozeman Chamber of Commerce also supports this endeavor. Our business community and economy are strong and ensuring public safety is essential to maintaining the future vitality of our community.
This proposal will be on the ballot November 6, 2018, so timing is paramount!
For questions and discussion around the proposed Public Safety Center, please attend a public meeting:
Let’s work smart to keep our safety standards in line with our rate of growth!