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Justice center money

Mar 6, 2014 By Steven R. Peck

The Wyoming Legislature has come through, so let the earnest planning begin

Fremont County got wonderful news this week when the Wyoming Legislature included money to pay for half of the proposed Riverton justice center.

Gov. Matt Mead signed the budget bill late Wednesday, and it is now the law.

Fremont County government appears ready to put up the money for the other half of the job, which would mean that the offices and functions of Fremont County Sheriff, Fremont County Attorney and Fremont County Court in our county's largest city will be able to vacate the uncomfortable, unsightly and ill-suited tin building on South Federal Boulevard in favor of a new structure, built for the purpose, with the security features and other functionality that a modern-day justice facility must have.

Fremont County commissioner Travis Becker of Riverton has invested much time and toil on the effort locally, and there was vital assistance in Cheyenne from State Sen. Eli Bebout and others as the legislation moved forward.

Two bills were in the works. The one that passed provides a smaller amount of funding, and only to projects in Fremont and Sweetwater counties. The other bill would have created a money supply through which any county could have applied. We still think the second option would have been preferable, if for no other reason than public relations.

That's no longer a concern, however, and the outcome is favorable to Riverton and Fremont County. We'll take it.

Don't expect an immediate groundbreaking on the new justice center, though. There are numerous preparatory steps still to be taken, and the new state budget doesn't take effect until July 1.

Also, objections were raised earlier in the planning stages when the county's preferred site for the facility was announced. The so-called Major property, made available to the county by the Major family at a fraction of market value, might face the same opposition in some quarters as it did months ago.

It will be up to the county and the neighbors to confer on those concerns and resolve them in a way that will permit siting on the Major property or somewhere else. It is now time for that work to begin in earnest, because the financing obstacle has been cleared. The sooner Riverton can get this necessary, long-awaited piece of public infrastructure in place, the better.

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