County goes forward on justice center planning without settling on the site

Feb 28, 2013 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

The Fremont County Commission has advanced plans to build a new Riverton justice center. The decisions came after the county board discussed concerns and how further investigation could add costly delays to the project.

Commissioner Stephanie Kessler expressed broad concerns about the process.

"I feel like I've spent more time discussing a $10,000 a year crash policy than I have getting prepared to making a decision on $5 million," she said, referring to a policy for county vehicles that the commissioners have discussed at the last several meetings.

She added, "I appreciate I'm coming into this late."

Responding to worries that the commission did not investigate all possible locations, Commissioner Travis Becker said, "I went on a direction I was given; I thought I'd got it pretty close to where we wanted to go."

Sites under consideration are the Major property in north Riverton, renovation of facilities at the current site on South Federal, and perhaps the Fremont Center on the Riverton County Fairgrounds.

Some commissioners said they worried that looking at more locations could be costly.

"In the time frame you're looking at, putting one more piece in this puzzle and delaying a possible bidding, it's going to shove it into another construction year," Thompson said.

"Or it will shove it so late into the construction year that bids will be excessive," Becker said.

"I don't need a full cost analysis, simply: is this worth looking at?" Commissioner Keja Whiteman said.

Thompson added their grant application would be stronger if it were focused on one site rather than three possibilities.

Becker responded saying they could submit the grant based on the Major location because they have the most information about it. Later, if they decide on a different site, the county board could amend the grant.

Chairman Doug Thompson added they could look at the Fremont Center without delaying work on the other two sites so the project could stay on schedule.

"If we engage (Reilly Johnson) per the contract, they can start looking at the two sites, and if they ask for a cost for looking at the third site," he said. "They can bring it back to the commission, that won't hinder their work on the two sites."

After the discussion, the commission voted to submit the grant application for one site, commit to pay half the cost, engage the Reilly Johnson engineering, and ask the firm to make a brief examination of the Fremont Center while it examines the other two sites.

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