Justice center prep continues; latest plan expected in October

Sep 13, 2013 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Architects are to have detailed plans for a new Riverton justice center finished in October.

Fremont County Commissioner Travis Becker announced the projection at the Sept. 10 county board meeting.

The design firm for the job, Reilly Johnson Architects, met with the Fremont County Attorney's Office, Fremont County Sheriff's Office and Fremont County Circuit Court, the building's users, and the county buildings maintenance department last week to review planning so far.

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.

Design work stalled in May when commissioners did not vote to move to the second phase of planning. They were waiting to hear the result of a grant application for funds to build the new facility and feared appearing to ready to build it on their own.

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.

Work restarted in August after commissioners Aug. 6 gave the go-ahead. They had learned state legislators were drafting a bill to provide funding for court security projects and wanted to have the justice center project ready to build before the money would be potentially available in the spring.

Before they can finish a design, the architects need to find out the nature of the soil beneath the building's planned site on the Major property in Riverton on Gasser Road.

Reilly Johnson intends to contract with Riverton firm Inberg-Miller Engineers to take soil samples, Becker said at the Sept. 10 meeting.

A contract with the local engineering company is yet to be finalized.

Becker thought a draft agreement was not favorable enough to the county, but he hoped to have it rewritten by next week.

He believes the proposed county facility already has passed one hurdle.

"The architects went to the city of Riverton with their preliminary plans," Becker said. "Everything will be to code with the city of Riverton; I anticipate there to be no problems."

In an interview, Becker the contract to design the project did not go through a bid process because it did not have to and because the work was very specialized. He said the county plans to award the contract to build the facility through a bid process, however.

"The design part of it needed to be very specialized," Becker said. "It needed to be someone who understands court security issues."

Reilly Johnson specializes in designing court facilities, he said. The company recently designed justice centers in Johnson and Natrona counties, and has designed others in Wyoming.

"I'm not sure there's another company in the state of Wyoming that specializes in designing court facilities," he said.

Fremont County also had a history of working with Reilly Johnson as the firm performed a study of court facilities several years ago for the Commission.

"That was really a lot of the reason we decided to go ahead and stay with the company," Becker said.

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