The 66th Legislative Session presents a golden opportunity to make a lasting investment in our state’s future by providing much-needed infrastructure funding while the economy is strong. Two worthwhile examples of projects included in HB 562, the infrastructure funding bill, are the renovation of Romney Hall and the Montana Historical Society Building.
The renovation of Romney Hall on the Montana State University (MSU) campus would transform one of the least-used academic buildings to one of the most highly utilized at a fraction of the cost of new construction. Additional classroom space at the Bozeman campus is urgently needed as enrollment has increased by 37 percent in 10 years. MSU has been incredibly fortunate that two alumni, Jake Jabs and Norm Asbjornson, have donated a combined $75 million to fund the construction of buildings for the colleges of business and engineering. These two new building have helped MSU stay narrowly ahead of a classroom crunch. However, MSU has not been successful in raising funds to renovate Romney Hall, which would benefit all students.
The Montana Historical Society is a true Montana treasure perfectly located in the 70-year-old Pioneers Memorial Building in the center of the state capital complex. Like Romney Hall, the Historical Society building is structurally sound, but in need of renovation and significant expansion. Unfortunately, nearly 90 percent of the museum’s nearly 50,000 historical artifacts and significant pieces of art are in storage due to a lack of exhibit space including about one-third of the 225 original Russel works owned by the people of Montana. Montana has a rich and vibrant history. It needs to be displayed and enjoyed by Montanans now and in the future.