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Mike Mansfield Federal Courthouse set to receive $24 million in energy-efficient upgrades

Mike Mansfield Federal Courthouse in Butte gets funding for clean energy updates
Posted at 11:19 AM, Jun 05, 2024

BUTTE — Historic buildings are a celebrated feature of the Mining City, but many old buildings are in need of some TLC. The 120-year-old federal courthouse has recently seen renovations but a team with the U.S. General Services announced on June 4 that more than $24 million in renovations and upgrades funded through the Inflation Reduction Act are about to morph the historic building into a facility of the future.

"It really is a triple win," says Administrator Robin Carnahan of the U.S. General Services Administration. She spoke in front of the backdrop of the federal building located at the top of Main Street near the Original Headframe and an old Catholic Church in Butte.

"When (President Joe Biden) talks about investing in America, it really is about investing in American jobs and innovation, investing in things that are going to reduce costs for taxpayers by lowering energy costs and improving the environment and the climate for our kids in the next generation," said Carnahan.

Administrator Carnahan says the upgrades will protect the historic building while saving taxpayers money. It's one of about 150 projects that the GSA is undertaking to create what they say is the largest climate investment in U.S. history.

"Ultimately the taxpayers are going to benefit because costs will be lower and the community is going to benefit because they’re going to have this historic treasure in what is one of the biggest historic districts in the whole country, be a great example of how the federal government is also doing its part," she said.

The GSA project plans to implement emerging technologies like geothermal energy that will allow the facility to run on 100 percent electric power and reduce energy consumption by 40 percent.

"It’s an old building. Every old building needs to be improved over the years, and so we’re pleased that we can continue to get sustained funding to make these improvements that over time are going to make this a building that’s going to make this a core feature of this community for a long time to come," said Carnahan.

The federal building holds many stories from the collective memory of the town to important moments in U.S. history and personal memories held by individuals.

"This is very personal, to have this building preserved, we hope, for posterity," said Chief Justice Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana. "It’s got a long and recognized history. Everyone knows about the bootlegger firing the bullet, hitting the bench in the courtroom, but it’s had other things happen."

Chief Justice Morris tells a story about coming across an old photo of his father, John Morris, signing up for service during World War II at the federal building, but he also reminds the audience of an important moment in U.S. history when a federal judge put an end to a dark chapter in America's past.

"This was the site of the infamous Sedition Trials back during World War I. When recent immigrants were accused of sedition because they had the temerity, mainly, to show up in the wrong place at the wrong time and speak with a funny accent ... The trials, luckily, were conducted by a judge who observed the rule of law and put that dark chapter of history behind us," said Morris.

The project aims to provide a long-lasting and durable facility that meets sustainability and resiliency goals and brings the building in line with the current Standards of Seismic Safety for Existing Federally Owned Buildings by using low embodied carbon concrete, glass, and steel.

The U.S. General Services Administration says they seek to enhance the resilience of federal buildings across the nation and mitigate risks from events such as storms, wildfires, and even earthquakes.

The project will take place from 2026 to 2029 and will include the installation of a modern high-efficiency all-electric heating system, electrical and lighting upgrades, window replacements, and facade improvements.

"When the federal government can lead by example in doing things that create good American jobs, create efficiencies and save money and are good for the future generations, we ought to be doing that, and I’m sure the rest of the community will appreciate it and follow suit," said Administrator Carnahan.