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County still undecided on spot for new court facility in Riverton

Feb 26, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

The Fremont County Commission took one step toward building a Riverton justice center while throwing another location into the mix. The county board discussed the $5 million project at its Feb. 19 meeting.

The immediate issues facing the board were agreeing to a $349,000 contract for an architectural firm and signing off on a grant application to the State Loan Investment Board.

Submitting the application involves an agreement that Fremont County would cover half the construction costs if SLIB provides the balance.

In the end, the board voted unanimously to engage Reilly Johnson and voted 3-1 to approve the grant.

Kessler's concern

Commissioner Stephanie Kessler voted against the application, and commissioner Larry Allen was not at the meeting.

"I feel by approving this I will be authorizing over $2 million of our cash reserves to do this," Kessler said. "I'm not sure I feel comfortable, that I have enough knowledge."

Vice chairman Travis Becker said that under the contract, engineering firm Reilly Johnson would first provide detailed plans and cost analysis by March 5 of building at the Major property in north Riverton and the Fremont County Fairgrounds.

The deal would further engage the architects to provide all design services through the end of the project.

Becker said that if the county engaged Reilly Johnson, its engineers would visit Riverton from March 3-5 to study the building sites and speak with the commission. Action was also necessary on the grant application, he said, because it would be due Feb. 21.

Armory option?

Before the county board reached its decisions, commissioner Keja Whiteman said she wanted to look at remodeling the Fremont Center at the fairgrounds, formerly the Riverton National Guard Armory, as a justice center, though she supported signing the engineering contract.

"Because the armory is the right square footage, and it's more of a shell ... (and) it's a pretty stout building," Whiteman said. "I think we need to rule out everything."

She asked if Reilly Johnson could take a quick look at the Fremont Center to see if it was a possibility.

Kessler said she supported looking at the Fremont Center, even if it added slightly to the cost.

Chairman Doug Thompson said the commission did investigate the center and concluded would cost as much to remodel the building as building new, he said.

The fair needs the facility for its operations, he added.