City considers detox ownership request; no simple answer found

Apr 22, 2014 By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The center's operators would like to acquire the building from the City of Riverton, but a simple transfer of deed is not permissible.

The city of Riverton is evaluating a request received from Volunteers of America-Northern Rockies that requested the city transfer ownership of the Center of Hope facility to them.

The center, known commonly as the "detox center" incorporates different programs and local resources to help residents seek recovery from alcohol abuse.

City administrator Steven Weaver said Volunteers of America plans to make $250,000 worth of structural improvements, including expansion, on the city owned building at 223 W. Adams Ave. Weaver presented the item to the council after confirming that a simple transfer of deed is not possible because all city property falls under state statute that says the city must make it available to other potential buyers.

"(We've) got to put it on the market and give everybody the equal opportunity in purchasing the property and there is no exception to that,'" Weaver said. "They're going to, potentially, invest quite of bit of money into that property, and I can see... why would they want to invest in the city property that in the end won't be theirs?"

Weaver listed options to the expansion VOA has considered but added that eventually the current location would be too small for VOA's services and would need to move elsewhere. He said city staff did look into other buildings but didn't find a good match. He suggested the council look into changing the language in the building lease agreement.

"They want some assurance that if they made this investment that somehow they'd be able to get their money back," he said.

VOA looked into the $250,000 improvement costs that would add 2,000 square feet and also considered a smaller addition for $175,000, or the purchase of a modular building. The center currently sits at 4,000 square feet. Weaver added that VOA would seek grant funding to assist in expanding other types of services at the center.

Suggestions for change of language in the lease included paying for the improvements done at the building if the city chose to end the lease with VOA. Another option was that if VOA decided to build a new center, the city would contribute to the amount invested in improvements toward the new building. Or, the city could share the costs of the improvements at the existing building, would benefit the city in selling it in the future and increasing its value.

"We need to do everything we can to help them expand," mayor Ron Warpness said. "The good work they're in our community is saving us a lot of money."

The city does not charge rent, and the council votes on a substantial donation every year.

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