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County could revisit swap with city, says commissioner

Jul 22, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

Settle on purpose for the bigger parcel first, Becker recommends

Fremont County Commissioner Travis Becker wants the board to decide its intended use of a 100-plus-acre parcel north of Riverton Memorial Hospital and Jaycee Park before revisiting a land offer to city leaders.

"I think first and foremost, the county, we need to figure out what is our direction with that property. I've already asked to have that as an agenda item" in the next few weeks, Becker said July 20.

"I want the commission to kind of formalize and say this is our intended use of the property; that way there is not speculation," he said. "And the public can start weighing in on the intended use, the fairgrounds or a new justice center or a combination. I'm open to hear it all."

The commission has yet to announce plans for the land since acquiring the roughly 114-acre parcel and two commercial lots from Wayne Major Sr. and his son Wayne Major Jr. in September for $200,000.

The property stretches north of Riverton Memorial Hospital and Jaycee Park to Cooper Road and includes two nearby commercial lots directly north of former Riverton doctor David Steger's office off Major Avenue.

As part of the deal with the county, the elder Major requested the commission offer about six acres for free to the Riverton City Council to use in its park system.

During their meeting June 5, city council members said they wanted an additional two acres to make the deal more attractive to the municipality. Commissioners rejected the city's plan during their meeting July 3.

"I think once we figure out what our final direction will be with that, I think we can open up talks again with the city and say, 'Here is our plan. Are you interested in having that portion of property that Wayne Major wanted to originally give to the city?' And we'll see what their direction is," Becker said.

Although the city would get six acres adjacent to Jaycee Park under the deal proposed by the county, Mayor Ron Warpness said the land comes with financial burdens for the municipality.

While walking the property, Warpness said the city's concerns could lessen by adding the two acres that will expand the site's usefulness as a walking path or some other recreational use.

"You just don't have much ground here to work with," Warpness said. "And if you get a lot of water and you build a nice walkway with benches and you come out here and it's flooded -- we didn't feel like we were being unreasonable."

A significant concern with the land offer is a ditch running through the parcel that could fill with water, while 19 trees require some type of maintenance work, Warpness said.

"It would probably cost $30,000 to $40,000 to put this addition into shape where we could use it as an extension of Jaycee Park," he said.

"All these old trees would have to be cleaned up or taken out."

Already the city's parks system has an annual budget of more than $500,000 that covers about 120 acres, Warpness said, noting fiscal concerns with the property.

"It's a nice piece of ground. We were really excited about the possibilities, especially with the hospital here and the senior housing. It would be a wonderful addition," Warpness said.

The city wanted assurance from the commission the additional requested land would be part of a deal at some point in the future, Warpness said.

Without the assurance, "we just felt that it wasn't in the city's best interest at this time," the mayor said.

"I hope it's not done. I hope in the future we can come back."

Becker said he anticipates the discussions on the land offer with the city will return.

"We'll see if we can't rekindle that conversation once the growing season is done with and see what the future plans of that property are going to be. I think eventually it will get done," Becker said.