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State board denies funds for new Riverton justice center

Jun 21, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

After a year of searching for a way to build a new Riverton justice center, Fremont County will face even more questions now that a hoped-for $2.6 million grant fell through. The State Lands and Investments Board denied an application for the money Thursday saying the Legislature was a more appropriate source of funds.

"We'll have to regroup and talk with our legislators and amongst the commission and figure out which direction we're going to go," said Fremont County commissioner Travis Becker. "Obviously we're disappointed."

Ryan Lance, the director of the Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments, said the SLIB approved a list of grants but held specific discussions regarding the Fremont County application.

"(That) was pretty steep compared to what the board had available and competing requests," Lance said of the $2.5 million request, noting that SLIB had about $5 million to allocate in mineral royalties grants.

Becker attended the meeting and spoke about the safety and welfare of the public and the people who work at the Riverton courthouse. The commissioner also took board members on a tour of the facility the week before.

After the testimony, the board decided not to give any money to the justice center project.

Board members thought funding from the state Legislature would be more appropriate, Lance said.

Commissioners had hoped the grant would cover a large piece of the proposed $5 million project. The commission put together funding to pay for about half of the construction but did not create a contingency plan if SLIB monies did come through.

"We've got to start brainstorming again," Becker said.

He said he had some ideas but did not want to comment on them until the county board discussed the options in public.

Moves to build a new facility arose after it was found in July that a bullet had penetrated the current courthouse's exterior. An architecture firm had finished the first of five stages of designing the building, but the commission in May decided to put further planning on hold.

The top elected officials in state government comprise the SLIB: Gov. Matt Mead, Secretary of State Max Maxfield, Auditor Cynthia Cloud, Treasurer Mark Gordon and Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill.

Before the meeting, the Office of State Lands and Investments staff did not recommend the local application in a written report.

The office said their reasons for not funding the justice center grant was, "Project is in the planning stage and the overall cost."

The report recommended funding 19 grants to counties, municipalities and special districts, totalling $5.9 million.

Other grants

Dubois was successful in obtaining a $250,000 mineral royalties grant from SLIB to fund half of a water system upgrade.

The town's grant was a part of the list SLIB approved initially, Lance said.

After the board approved the first group of requests, it granted $500,000 in a mineral royalties grant to rebuild Lander's community center, Lance said. The county seat had asked for $1.25 million from the program, but the Office of State Lands and Investments staff had recommended not providing any mineral royalties funding for the project.

City officials and state Sen. Cale Case, of Lander, spoke at the meeting in favor of the grant, Lance said.

Earlier, SLIB approved a $150,000 loan and $500,000 grant through the Wyoming Business Council for the community center rebuild.

A $360,000 application for Jeffrey City Water and Sewer District's water supply project was also rejected.

Lance said the main concerns were with the district's ability to raise matching funds and repay a loan, which was a part of the application.