Local lawmakers added two Riverton-based projects to the Wyoming Legislature’s state-funded capital construction bill draft this month.
The allocation would provide one-to-one matching funds to help local organizations raise the $7 million needed for the project, Salazar said, but no state money should be distributed until the entire local match has been raised.
“I would propose that a 24-month time limit should be imposed to raise such funds,” Salazar said.
The City of Riverton would be responsible for “management and oversight” of the project, he noted, adding that “the purchase of the land to be used for such a location will be acquired at the end of this month.”
The Joint Appropriations Committee approved the proposal without discussion.
Riverton state office
The property in question is located at 877 North Eighth Street West in Riverton, he said – an office space that Wyoming Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, identified as the “old US Energy building.”
“How surprising,” said Nethercott, who grew up in Fremont County. “I would’ve guessed (that’s) what the state would be purchasing. And what are we purchasing it for?”
State staffers said more than 40 state employees who currently work in Fremont County would be “consolidated into the building,” which could accommodate up to 75 employees once it is renovated.
They also noted that the cost to maintain the building is “roughly equal” to the amount of money the state has been paying to lease office space for Fremont County-based employees: about $237,000 annually.
Salazar, who, like Larsen, is a member of the Riverton State Office Task Force, said it was his “understanding” that the state will “attempt (to) reach that 75-employee capacity” for the building and that “over a period of time … the state would be saving money (with) the purchase of this” property.
“That’s one of the factors that attracted me to this,” Salazar said. “This was an attempt to save the state money in the first place.”
State staffers said the analysis they performed showed it would take between 33 and 46 years to “break even” on the project.
By that point, Nethercott pointed out, the old US Energy building will be around 80 years old.
“I don’t support … this Riverton office building,” Nethercott said. “It wasn’t a decision made by the needs of the state. … It was at the request of an individual former legislator from that community, (and) it remains contentious.”
Wyoming Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne, who is also a member of the Riverton State Office Task Force, said the initial request came from former legislator Eli Bebout of Riverton, but it was approved by the legislature last year and became a “directive” to the state “to go find an office or build an office building in Riverton.”
“Is it possible to get out of the contract?” Nethercott asked.
Earlier, Larsen had clarified that “the offer has been accepted (and we’re) waiting” for the rest of the purchase process to be finalized, but Nicholas said the answer to Nethercott’s question was “no.”
“Maybe we can sell it,” Nethercott replied.
After the discussion, the JAC voted to deny Larsen’s motion to allocate $12 million toward the renovation of the old US Energy building – but he followed up with another proposal: to allocate $8 million for the same purpose.
The lower amount represents the “middle” of the three options the State Construction Department outlined for the building renovation project, state staffers said, noting that the “bare minimum” option would cost $5.7 million.
The JAC approved Larsen’s $8 million motion, with the stipulation that the allocation will include any unused funds that were budgeted to support the work of the Riverton State Office Task Force.
The full Wyoming Legislature will consider the state-funded capital construction bill during the upcoming legislative session, which is set to convene Feb. 12.