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Clearing up details about new justice center in city

Sep 27, 2013 - By Travis Becker, Fremont County commissioner, Riverton

Editor:

As your readers are aware, Fremont County is looking to build a new justice center in Riverton. While a bullethole last June has precipitated the need, the county commissioners actually started looking at a new facility as early as 2008, when they hired Riley Johnson, an architect firm that specializes in such buildings, to do a feasibility study.

That study included placing every public entity in Riverton under one roof. While that would be nice, the cost of doing it is extremely cost prohibitive.

The current, pressing need is a new justice center. The Riverton division of the county sheriff, county attorney, and the circuit court will be the only occupants of the new proposed facility. And I cannot stress this enough: there will be no prisoners held overnight. This is not a jail. The only time that inmates would be in the building is when they are transported from the jail in Lander to have their day in court with the judge in Riverton. Once they have appeared before the judge, they are transported back to the county jail Lander, the same as it is now and has been for decades.

So why have a sheriff, county attorney, and circuit court under one roof?

The sheriff is tasked with court security. The county attorney is mandated to charge and prosecute defendants, and the circuit court listens to all the cases. It only makes sense to have all three in the same building instead of separate buildings scattered about.

By way of numbers, the Riverton Circuit Court is one of the busiest in the state, having handled more than 8,100 cases last year. The cases range from simple traffic violations to accused murderers.

In the new proposed building, security issues would be addressed that the current facility cannot. The current facility originally was built for hay storage. Then, in the 1980s, it was repurposed for the current occupants. It has undergone many facelifts over the years to improve security and other needs, but it is quite clear, and has been for some time, that it is not an appropriate building for its current use.

There also have been some questions as to where the new River justice center would be built. Take Major Avenue north of Sunset Drive past Fremont Counseling and BRS Engineering. There are two acres of land between there and the old white farmhouse, at the corner of Gasser Road and Major Avenue.

The hours of operation will be the same as they are now, basically 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

I hope this helps explain a bit more about the proposed plan. As always, please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.

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