State OKs funds for justice center

Jun 5, 2014 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

On its second try, Fremont County got state funding for the Riverton justice center -- and then some.

The State Loan and Investments Board on Thursday morning unanimously approved giving the county about $2.6 million for the project.

"This funding -- between them and what we're putting in, obviously -- it should cover the whole shooting match," Commissioner Travis Becker said.

He went to the SLIB meeting in Cheyenne to plead Fremont County's case.

Rising costs

Bids for constructing the project opened May 22 were higher than expected. Even the lowest would have caused the project to be about $500,000 over budget.

Trouble was, Fremont County already hD submitted its application to SLIB for half of the projected cost, minus another small state grant, or for about $2.39 million. Becker decided to explain the situation at the meeting and ask for more money.

"When I was out there talking to them, I didn't think it would behoove us to not ask them for that additional money we knew it would cost us, and they agreed," Becker said.

SLIB authorized about $250,000 extra, he said.

Fremont County first went to SLIB for funding for the justice center project last year and asked for $2.6 million from the state mineral royalties grant program. The board of state elected officials turned down that first request, saying funding through the Wyoming Legislature would be more appropriate.

Lawmakers got to work.

In its budget passed in February, the Legislature set aside $3 million for court security projects in Fremont County. Local funds, according to the law, must match the money coming from the state.

It is from this pot that SLIB appropriated the funds for the Riverton justice center. Fremont County must cover its portion of the costs, however.

County's share

Commissioners in May backed spending $1.98 million on the project, which, together with some other expenses, would equal the 50 percent local match of of the projected $5 million project cost. Now that the budget has increased, the county board would have to authorize an increase in spending.

Becker expects such a resolution at the commission's June 10 meeting.

The new justice center is planned to include space for the Fremont County Sheriff, Attorney and Riverton Circuit Court and is to be located near the intersection of Major Avenue and Gasser Road.

Contract timeline

The firm designing the building, Reilly Johnson Architects, is reviewing the construction bids ahead of making recommendations to the commission. The county board could decide on a contractor as soon as this month.

After hearing about the projected budget over runs at their June 3 meeting, commissioners discussed paring down the project. They expect to decide which costs in negotiations with whichever construction company they select.

Court officials have said the current courthouse in Riverton has inadequate space, technology and security. Moves to build a new facility intensified in 2012 when a bullet was found to have penetrated the current building.

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