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

(Fremont County, Wyo.) – In a 3-2 decision on Tuesday, the Fremont County Commission voted to move forward with construction documents for a future Riverton Justice Center project.

“I think we need to keep moving with the project,” Commission Vice Chairman Travis Becker said, bringing the item up for discussion.

He spoke of the public hearing he held on the topic last week, as well as the completion of the design, which was presented to the commission last month.

The construction documents that the commission will now pay Reilly Johnson Architecture to complete are what contractors would use to create bids from and eventually build the facility.

Commissioner Stephanie Kessler said she was not in opposition to the project, but she wanted the commission to have a firm plan for how to pay for the $4.9 million construction before they moved forward.

Right now the commission is hopeful that the Legislature would earmark funds for courthouse projects during the next session, which would be allocated by the State Loan and Investment Board. Gov. Matt Mead has included $10 million in his budget, but those funds are not guaranteed. Becker feels confident Fremont County would qualify for some of that money.

Borrowing from the county’s own reserve funds is an option for coming up with the county’s cost share in the project, but the commission has not yet agreed to any payment plan.

Commissioner Keja Whiteman said she’s not opposed to the project, but she also has funding concerns. “I’m not convinced we have the money, and I feel like we’re being pushed down this road to race other projects,” she said, adding she prefers not to write checks when the money isn’t in the bank. “It’s not that I’m opposed to the project, it’s just that I need more reassurance.”

Whiteman was referring to the fact that there are a number a large projects in the county that will go out to bid next year, which could raise costs for projects that arrive later rather than sooner.

Kessler said she will work hard to lobby the legislature to make sure the courthouse funding goes through.