(Riverton, Wyo.) – Four of the five Fremont County Commissioners toured a possible site for the permanent location of a juvenile Day Reporting Center in Riverton Tuesday afternoon. Only Stephanie Kessler was absent. The property at 1249 Majors Avenue is already owned by the county as it was acquired in the package when the county purchased some 114 acres of land south of Cooper Road, west of Majors Avenue and north of Sunset for $200,000 several years ago. The county had been renting out the 1930’s era home, but it is now empty and in need of much work.
“I think it’ll need about $10,000 at a minimum to make it satisfactory,” said J. R. Oakley, the county’s Building Maintenance Supervisor. “We have about $1,200 into it right now with some leaks fixed and we’re having it painted inside.”
Upon entering the two story dwelling, the overpowering odor of staleness, mildew and other odors assaults the senses. The carpets are stained, electric fixtures hang from the low ceilings by wires, the floor tilts toward the center of the house, the toilet needs to be reset and there’s a pool of water at the bottom of the stairs that leads to a crawl space under the floor. And this is after members of the Set Free Church already spent many hours inside the house cleaning and making it somewhat presentable. It has been partially painted.
There are no appliances in the home, although a donated refrigerator sits in an old log outbuilding which was the original home of the Majors family, whom the county purchased the land from. “We got the fridge from the Set Free Church as it was donated to them and they didn’t need it, so they donated it to us. We need to plug it in and see how well, if at all, it works,” Oakley said. He also indicated he could probably find a used cook stove for not much money.
Melinda Cox, the director of the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, or JDAI, which operates the Day Reporting Center in collaboration with Fremont County Youth Services, said she only has $8,000 in her budget to put toward the renovation of the home. Cox said there are two large rooms in the home that could be used as classrooms for between 12 and 18 students at the most, plus provide a small office and some storage. “I love the location and it would allow us to pursue some agricultural programming,” she said.
Commission Chairman Doug Thompson suggested two alternatives for Cox to consider. One would be keeping the Day Reporting Center at the Boys Home in Riverton where it is now housed for one additional year to “accumulate more resources” to renovate the house all at one time, or have the ground floor done in one year and work on the second floor the next year.
Cox said she would be okay with holding off for one year, “since the program is new and patterns have not been established yet.” She added that the program served eight kids last year and already had three referrals this year. “We do need a bigger space,” she said. “We use the Boys Group Home during the day when those kids are in school.”
In looking at other alternatives, Keja Whiteman said she did not want to see a modular unit put on the property. Travis Becker said he thought the home would be adequate for the number of students anticipated. Larry Allen said he had a contact in Georgia where the county might obtain some commercial carpeting at a discounted price, which could help Cox’s budget. Allen also said he thought the building needed an electrical inspection.
Thompson noted that the renovations planned would be fine for a residential home, “but we’ll have students in here and there may be other requirements needed that we don’t know about.”
Cox said she would investigate what requirements would be to use the house as an educational facility, and additionally check if there were other requirements from the Department of Family Services. She said she’d report back to the commission in two weeks.
Youth Services Director Chuck Kratz said there may be other funding streams available to help support the program, in which juveniles who find themselves in trouble with the law can be diverted rather than spend time in jail. It’s an intervention program to assist those who need life and social skills while continuing their education in an alternative setting.
As for Oakley, he said he’d have the rest of the house painted since workers had already started on the project, and wait for further instructions down the road. “I don’t want to pour a lot of money into this if we’re not going to use it,” he said.