A legislative task force is moving forward quickly as it studies potential options for a new state office in Riverton.
The Riverton State Office Task Force held its first meeting last week to review information about the facilities Wyoming currently owns and leases in Fremont County.
Members of the task force plan to present that information to the State Building Commission in July, along with a list of potential locations for a new office facility in Riverton, then follow up with the SBC in October to formally request funding for preliminary site studies.
“That’s speedy,” Wyoming Rep. Ember Oakley, R-Riverton, said. “We said we wanted to get to work on this – I guess we’re going to.”
‘Time is money’
State Construction Department executive director Jerry Vincent agreed that the proposed timeline is “quick,” but, he added, “that’s how we do things.”
“I don’t want us to shirk responsibility to do this well, but … time is money,” Vincent explained. “Every day you don’t build, it costs more.”
He used the new Thyra Thomson State Office Building in Casper as an example, recalling that the total cost for the project rose from $28 million to $44 million in the years that passed between the initial planning period and project completion.
In today’s dollars, Vincent said the Thyra Thomson building would have cost $49 million.
“(That’s) the time value of money in construction,” he said. “Any interruption in this process (costs) money.”
Room to grow
The Riverton State Office Task Force is looking for a site that could house all of the state employees currently working in Fremont County, but members said they would also like the property to include space for potential expansion in the future.
“We’re looking at scalability,” Vincent said. “Acreage matters.”
The Greater Yellowstone Region is “one of the fastest-growing” areas in the United States, Wyoming Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, pointed out, and as a result, “there’s going to be more demand for services” in the northwest corner of Wyoming in the coming years.
“That needs to be built into the consideration,” Hicks said. “We need to look at efficiency. … It’s a lot shorter drive from Riverton to Lincoln County than it is from Cheyenne.”
Vincent echoed those comments, noting that his project managers currently spend a lot of time driving from Cheyenne to visit building sites throughout Wyoming, including in the northwest portion of the state.
Some of those project managers could relocate to Riverton or Casper, he said, saving time and money for Wyoming.
Other state employees may “voluntarily decide that they would much rather reside in Casper or Riverton,” Hicks added.
“We hear (that) people really like it here,” he said. “To attract and retain the best people we can … we’re going to let the 21st (century) workforce determine where they have the most desirability based on the amenities.”
An influx of state workers would also help strengthen Riverton’s economy, Wyoming Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, noted, expressing his preference for an office location that could help “enhance the town” – like the 10-acre Tonkin Stadium property on West Main Street.
“(That’s) a pretty nice spot,” Driskill said.
He also mentioned the state-owned property near the Wyoming Honor Farm north of town.
At the end of last week’s meeting, the task force assigned a working group to help the state construction department assess potential office sites in Riverton in preparation for the State Building Commission meeting next month.
The task force will meet remotely July 17 to review the presentation ahead of the SBC’s July 21 meeting.
The next in-person task force meeting is scheduled to take place July 27.