The capital construction budget proposal that the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee approved last week includes $34 million for a new state office building in Riverton.
The committee also asked state administrators to “survey all state employees working in Cheyenne as to whether they (would) be interested in moving to the Fremont County area and working out of a state office in Riverton.”
Wyoming Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, said the idea stems from a years-long conversation among lawmakers asking whether “we need to consolidate services in communities where we have lots of state agencies.”
He pointed to the newly constructed Thyra Thomson State Office Building in Casper as an example of a new state facility that now houses multiple government agencies that were previously “scattered around town.”
“That has proven to really (have) worked,” Larsen said. “(It’s) working exceptionally.”
There are a lot of state agencies “scattered around Riverton” too, Larsen said, and the community might be better served if those offices were “more centrally located.”
“(But) where would that be?” Larsen asked. “What’s the plan? We don’t have that answer.”
In the past, the discussion about creating a more centralized state office facility in Riverton centered on the old Tonkin stadium property, but Larsen said “it was going to take a lot to renovate” that building, “so we went ahead and reappropriated the money for the demolition to the school district.”
“That building will come down,” Larsen said.
The money the JAC appropriated last week would go toward a more comprehensive study of the situation, he said.
Among other items, Larsen said the study would identify which government agencies could be housed in a new state office building in Riverton.
“There’s some thought, for example, with the State Engineer’s Office,” he said. “Is the state better served to have a component of that agency more centrally located?”
The state employee survey will help answer those kinds of questions as well, Larsen said, noting that, in the case of the State Engineer’s Office, “you’re looking at … a profession-specific group of people – water engineers and civil engineers – (who) already have tenure and experience in the engineer’s office.”
“The question (for them) would be, ‘Would you be willing to move from Cheyenne, and what does that look like?’” Larsen said. “You can’t just make a decision like this without having some contemplation on the impacts to the employees.”
Wyoming Sen. Tim Salazar, R-Riverton, said a new state office building in Riverton would “save the state money … in the long-term” while also helping to “attract and retain highly-qualified employees in the central part of the state.”
“For that, I want to commend the JAC for this funding,” Salazar said during last week’s meeting.
The Wyoming Legislature will consider the JAC’s budget proposals during the 2023 General Session, which begins Jan. 10.