County gets $134K grant for hazardous material cleanup in old jail

Great Falls Development Authority approved a brownfield cleanup of up to $134,225 to Cascade County for the removal of asbestos and lead paint from the historic old jail downtown.

Commissioner Jane Weber told The Electric that the county must award a contract for the cleanup and she’s hoping commissioners will be able to do that at their May 26 meeting.

County documenting artwork in old county jail to preserve historical record

The state historic preservation office determined there were no adverse impact to the historic significance by cleaning up the hazardous materials, Weber said.

The determination was needed since the project is being funded through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the building is included in the northside Great Falls district that is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Earlier this month, Roland Taylor, a photographer, was in the building documenting the artwork left by inmates in years past to preserve the historical record.

Weber said the county hired Taylor and the cost was under $2,000.

Last month, the county completed a hazardous materials inspection at the old jail with a $12,000 grant from GFDA.

Weber told The Electric earlier this month that since there’s lead paint on the old jail cell bars they need to be removed, Weber said, and it wouldn’t make sense to have the cells for most potential future uses.

“It’s a mess in there,” she said. “It’s never going to be a jail again. So we’re changing it, but we’d have to change it to repurpose it.”

County inspecting old jail for hazardous materials with GFDA grant funding

There are still no definitive plans for future use of the building, but Weber told The Electric in April that, “my dream is to convert the building as an extension of our justice campus (the courthouse), making room if this county is mandated to have an additional District Court judge. We have the space in the old jail to move folks not associated with District Court just across the street (into the old jail). The jail and courthouse are companion buildings constructed of the same style and era and materials. There were conceptual drawings done by LPW before I was a county commissioner. Again, they have never been approved by the commission, but we can’t move forward with any re-purposing until the hazmat issue is resolved.”