By Joshua Scheer, reporter, county10
(Riverton, Wyo.) – The Fremont County Commission is considering going ahead with building a brand new “justice center” in Riverton to replace the existing courthouse that is surrounded by Conex boxes.
Earlier Tuesday during the board’s regular meeting, Commission Vice Chairman Travis Becker brought a proposal from Reilly Johnson Architects to his fellow commissioners for the construction of a new building. The proposal lists a rebuilding cost of $5,239,000 for 16,000 square feet of space. “That’s about all they do is justice center work,” Becker said.
Becker said that the architects have told him if the county decides to go with them, they could break ground in June. He added that the firm knows the needs of the Fremont County Attorney and Sheriff’s offices as well as the court’s needs after having worked with them for several years in a consulting capacity. Those three entities are planned to have space in the new facility. Becker said a full 16,000 square feet might not be necessary.
Commission Chairman Doug Thompson said it has been generally agreed upon that a new facility should be built rather than try to remodel an existing building to fit their needs. Commissioner Stephanie Kessler emphasized her desire to make sure all remodel options had been discussed. Becker said he believed they had, including a detailed consideration of the High Plains building. He said the remodel there would come to about the same cost as building a new facility.
The two primary options for where to put the existing building is either on empty space on the Fremont County Fairgrounds or the Majors property, which is owned by the county, on the northwest side of Riverton behind the Riverton Memorial Hospital.
“I think we need to focus on one of those before we engage (the architect),” Thompson said. He added that they also need to figure out where to the get the funds.
Commissioners Larry Allen, Keja Whiteman and Becker said they supported using the rodeo grounds. Thompson said he was in favor of the Majors property. He said he felt as though the space at the fairgrounds was limiting. “It just looks to me like we’re going to be cramming something in there,” he said. He also said there could be traffic issues during fair events.
Allen suggested getting a cost comparison done between the two properties to see which would be cheapest to develop. Becker said water and sewer lines would be more accessible and not as long and costly to install at the fairgrounds. Whiteman said she was hoping some day in the future the existing fairgrounds would be moved to the Majors property, allowing the new courthouse room to grow.
Becker said he would work with the architects to get a quick cost comparison between the two sites done by next Tuesday.
The county is considering passing a resolution to apply to the State Land and Investment Board for a Mineral Royalties Grant for half of the project cost. The other half would come out of the county’s cash reserves. That grant application, he said, is due by Feb. 21.
The commission could take action next week on which property to pursue, whether or not to accept a proposal from the architects and to approve the grant application.