Aug 7, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff WriterThe possibility of funding from the Wyoming Legislature has spurred the Fremont County Commission to begin the process of designing a new Riverton justice center --again.
Work on the project has been stalled since May, when commissioners voted not to move forward with design development for the facility. In June, the State Loan and Investment Board turned down Fremont County's applications for funds for the center, in part because there was no design in place for the building.
The initiative to build a new facility was initiated in July 2012 after a bullet was found to have penetrated the current courthouse's exterior.
Commission vice chairman Travis Becker said state Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, is drafting legislation to allocate $10 million through the State Loan and Investment Board for court security projects.
"The way it's envisioned, it would be a portion of SLIB (money) specifically for court security, not for gardens and event centers," Becker said during a commission meeting this week.
The legislation would require a 50 percent match for any grant given out, Becker said. He thinks the state funding could be available as early as March or as late as July 1.
Commissioners acknowledged that other courthouses in Wyoming are in need of upgraded security, but they said the Riverton justice center should be a candidate for a grant if the legislation goes through.
According to commissioners, Bebout is still writing the bill. It would have to pass through a legislative committee, both houses of the state Legislature and the governor's office before it became law. It could change or fail to pass at several points.
Becker and commission chairman Doug Thompson said they want to have plans finished for the new Riverton justice center by the time funds are available.
"We do need to look at a timeline and we need to gear it toward that legislative (bill)," Thompson said during this week's meeting.
With the timeline concerns in mind, the county board decided to push forward with designing the new justice center.
"Moving forward on a justice center I think is more than appropriate," Becker said. "I think we all know Eli Bebout is working diligently to rework some funding efforts."
Becker moved to have architectural firm Reilly Johnson start the next phase of planning, called design development. The cost of design development will be $75,000.
Becker said funding was already in place to move forward: In April the county board appropriated $380,000 to pay for all five design stages. Becker said design development will take about two months.
"Once you do design development you go to bid documents," he said. "In essence, we could be five to six months away from a shovel-ready project."
Following that time frame, the plans would be complete at the beginning of February.
Commissioner Larry Allen seconded Becker's motion, and the county board voted 3-1 to approve it. Stephanie Kessler voted against the motion, and Keja Whiteman was not at the meeting.
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