The future of the Intensive Behavioral Center has raised questions as legislation concerning the anticipated relocation of the Montana Highway Patrol to Boulder begins to take shape.
The 12-bed facility, operated by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, is located on the north campus of the former Montana Development Center — the same portion of the roughly 48 acre campus that is being eyed by the Highway Patrol.
House Bill 686 calls for the Department of Justice and the DPHHS to enter into a memorandum of understanding to transfer the Boulder campus from the former to the latter for use by the Montana Highway Patrol.
The DPHHS is the current owner of the property.
The transfer may include the behavioral health facility and must be completed by Dec. 31, according to the bill. The bill also includes a budget appropriation of $500,000 a year to the Department of Justice’s general fund for two years of the biennium budget as part of this potential move, beginning on July 1.
The inclusion of the Intensive Behavioral Center has raised questions about its future among local leaders.
Jefferson County Commission Chairman Bob Mullen, at the March 23 Commission meeting when the Highway Patrol’s move was being discussed, wondered if DPHHS wanted to move the facility to another location.
DPHHS spokesman Jon Ebelt, in an email to The Monitor, said, “We are in the midst of a multi-step process of legislative budget development. The legislative body did take action to remove funding, but gave no direction to move the facility. That is all the details we have at this time.”
In addition to the 12 residents of the facility, the IBC is allocated 72 full-time employees.
If the move goes to plan, it would bring more than 20 full-time employees to Boulder. The move includes those working at the current headquarters in Helena, as well as support staff, according to Highway Patrol spokesman Kyler Nerison.
The anticipated move by the Highway Patrol to the former MDC north campus has caused the Jefferson Local Development Corporation to reevaluate its master planning project, said JLDC Economic Development Project Officer Eric Seidensticker at the March 23 Commission meeting.
The JLDC kicked off the master plan process in January and was set to include the north and south campus. While the north campus is owned by the DPHHS, the south campus is owned variously by Jefferson County, the JLDC, Youth Dynamics and the state.
Seidensticker said the master plan portion of the project could now likely look at infrastructure and access.
However, the second component of the project, the preliminary architectural report, had focused on the administration and recreation buildings on the north campus and it’s unsure right now what buildings the Highway Patrol wants to use, said Seidensticker.
Seidensticker said it may be advantageous to shift the focus to the south campus and buildings five and nine, which are owned by Jefferson County.
Buildings five and nine are also part of a brownfield grant application currently being reviewed by the federal Department of Environmental Protection. The grant would allow for cleanup efforts, namely asbestos and lead paint.
Seidensticker said that perhaps building five could be used for workforce housing/mixed use.
The preliminary architectural review would provide some numbers on possible rehabilitation, he said.
Building nine, or Griffin Hall, was built in 1912 and was used for recreation, cooking, dining, classrooms, dormitories and other uses until 1986, when the property was left vacant. It is 10,782 square feet.
Building five was built in 1923 and was used as a dormitory for the State Training School and was operated as a dormitory until the 1980s. It contains 18,930 square feet.
Each building was listed as a contributing property to the Montana State Training School Historic District, on the National Register of Historic Places, in 2014.
Commissioner Leonard Wortman said he wants to move forward with setting up some public hearings on buildings five and nine.
He wants to get some input on what those buildings should be used for— or if they should be used at all.