Preliminary exterior design of the proposed Riverton justice center. (Graphics provided by Reilly Johnson Architecture)

(Lander, Wyo.) – The Fremont County Commission yesterday discussed the possibility of funding projects over the next five years, including using a loan from the county’s reserves to fund the Riverton Justice Center Project.

Vice Chairman Travis Becker  told the commission that in Gov. Matt Mead’s budget for the next year, he is proposing $10 million to be given away through the State Loan and Investment Board specifically for courthouse projects.

Becker said Riverton’s justice center is at the top of the state’s list of court projects. “Not another one in the state is as decrepit as Riverton’s,” he said.

With a $4.9 million projected construction price tag, and Mead proposing a 50/50 state share in the funding model, Becker anticipates that Fremont County could receive about $2.5 million from the state.

(The county is holding a public meeting Wednesday night, Dec. 4 at 6 p.m. on the project at Riverton City Hall. Read more here.)

One option for funding the other half, Becker said, would be a loan from the county’s $7.5 million reserve fund. The county tries to maintain the amount for emergency situations. Becker presented payback options at varying interest rates for a $2.5 million loan over a 10-year timeframe. At .5 percent interest, yearly payments would be nearly $257,000. At 2 percent, annual payment would be upwards of $278,000.

Becker said the options were just an idea for the rest of the commission to consider.

Commissioner Stephanie Kessler noted that if they go this direction, there would still be a general fund hit to deal with to make the annual payments, which she said would likely impact other departments’ budgets. Becker said he’s identified more than $480,000 paid out of the general fund in the current fiscal year for one-time expenditures, and that’s where some of this money could come from.

Treasurer Scott Harnsberger, also of the Capital Improvement Maintenance Projects: Long-term committee (CIMPL), said Becker’s recommendation is also the committee’s recommendation. The commission voted 3-1 keep the idea on the table for consideration. Commissioner Keja Whiteman was the lone no vote. Commissioner Larry Allen was not in attendance due to weather.

Additionally, the commission voted 2-2, not to consider CIMPL’s plan to provide $100,000 to the Lander Community Center construction. The committee had recommended providing $50,000 each in the next two fiscal years. Becker and Whiteman voted against the idea, while Chairman Doug Thompson and Kessler voted for it. The tie vote amounts to a no vote.

Becker said he didn’t think the project met the standards of health and safety he likes to consider. Kessler said the City of Lander has designed the center to be an emergency staging area for the county. She also said that the county provides $100,000 each year to the Riverton airport, which is more of an economic consideration as the community center is as well.

The commission also approved a list of other projects brought forward by the CIMPL committee for future consideration. These include, but are not limited to, a number of road reconstruction projects.