Madison County Courthouse remains closed with no answers on next steps

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Posted at 5:50 PM, Jul 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-28 19:50:03-04

In April, MTN News covered the closure of the Madison County Courthouse due to asbestos and mold that led to the displacement of employees. The courthouse remains closed and no decision has been made on what to do with this historic building.

Local historian, Jim Jarvis, says the latest update he has received from a Madison County Commissioner is that the Courthouse will temporarily remain vacant.

"It's been part of this community for 150 years. There's no reason why it can't be part of the community for another 150 years. And so, yeah, seeing it sit quiet and knowing that there's nobody in there makes me sad," Jarvis said. "The big question is, how do you define temporary? Is that a matter of months or years?"

The almost 150-year-old Madison County Courthouse is the oldest in the state of Montana. It closed in March following a water leak that led to mold causing an unsafe work environment. Madison County Commissioners held a meeting in April to discuss fixing the issues with the courthouse. County offices have been moved across the street into the Annex building following the courthouse closure.

Jarvis said, "It seems like it's pretty cozy over there with everybody in there, and then there are a few temporary trailers that have been brought to bear to provide some space as well."

Virginia City Mayor, Justin Gatewood, has similar feelings about the courthouse remaining closed.

"To have it shut down for, you know, four months or a year or two is terribly disappointing," Mayor Gatewood said.

Mayor Gatewood believes that repairing the current courthouse would make more sense than building another one.

"The tens of millions of dollars that would be involved with building something even remotely similar to this versus the relatively modest expense of adding an elevator for accessibility issues, doing some repairs, etc," Mayor Gatewood said.

He is hopeful a decision will be made sooner rather than later.

"I think and I hope with cautious optimism that they realize that the quicker they can address, address the modest repairs and improvements necessary to get this building operational again, the better off the county will be, the better off their employees will be," Mayor Gatewood said.

Mayor Gatewood says waiting for answers and a solution has been challenging, but understands the county commissioners and other leaders are doing their best to figure out what the best move is.

"It's kind of just hanging out there. We can continue to ask for a schedule or a timeline from the county, and in their defense, they are they're doing their due diligence. They're scheduling it out. So and that takes time," Mayor Gatewood said.