County chooses Major property for Riverton justice complex

Mar 13, 2013 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

The Major property will be the site for a new Riverton justice center.

The Fremont County Commission chose a final location for the facility March 12. The decision followed months of examining site options and fresh cost estimates from an architect.

"If it's not that much of a price difference, we should go with the Major's property," Commissioner Stephanie Kessler said.

The county board at its prior meeting narrowed options to two: a building on the Major site or adding a new courthouse at the fairgrounds remodeling the current justice center.

Architecture firm Reilly Johnson estimated the building new would cost $5.2 million and the remodel and addition option would come in at $5.1 million.

Creosote-contaminated soil near the current courthouse added a question mark to the second price tag. Removing it would be necessary for construction, but the engineers could not determine the cost of cleaning the contamination.

"I don't think we need to consider the fairgrounds property," Commissioner Larry Allen said. "We get back to the creosote problem. " I don't think we want too get started on that."

Moves to build a new facility arose after a bullet was found in July that had penetrated the current courthouse's exterior.

Commissioners Travis Becker and Doug Thompson said they also favored the Major site.

Thompson added he would like to pare down the size of the building from the architect's estimate of 16,700 square feet, saying it could be 12,000 or 13,000 square feet.

Documents from the architect state that the new building at the Major property would hold the courthouse, A Fremont County Attorney's Office and a Fremont County Sheriff's Office.

The commission voted, and all present agreed to engage Reilly Johnson to design a facility on the Major property.

Commissioner Keja Whiteman was absent.

The time line for planning, raising funds and construction remains a concern for the county board.

The commission recently applied for $2.6 million through the State Loan Investment Board mineral royalties grant program.

Becker, at the commission's March 12 meeting, said having detailed plans for the project by the time officials examine the application in May would strengthen the county's proposal.

"If we don't have some fort of schematic of our project to show it's a viable project, it won't pass muster," Becker said.

He said a board decision on March 12 would allow Reilly Johnson time to draw up plans.

Becker added that Wyoming Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Kite will meet with commissioners on March 15, and he hoped the judge would make a written statement to support Fremont County's grant application.

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