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County opts for ballistic glass in justice center
The new Riverton justice center will employ ballistic glass like the sample architect Rick Backes showed Tuesday at the Fremont County Commission meeting. Photo by Eric Blom

County opts for ballistic glass in justice center

Jan 22, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

The new Riverton justice center will employ ballistic glass and bullet-stopping sand in its concrete walls, Fremont County Commissioners have decided. They also looked at measures to off-set the cost of the $116,000 security upgrade.

"If we build this without ballistic glass or sand in the walls, that's not addressing one of the main motivating factors (for building a new facility)," commission chairman Doug Thompson said Tuesday. "I know it $115,000, but I think it's appropriate."

Without the upgrades, the estimated cost was $4.93 million.

Commissioners looked at replacing electronic key-card locks and LED exterior lights with cheaper options, and at axing a backup generator. Using more conventional lights would save $60,000, employing mechanical keys would $3,000 per door, and eliminating the generator would cut $70,000 from the price, architect Bob Johnson said.

Johnson's company Reilly Johnson Architecture is designing the building and is starting to prepare detailed plans for bidding and constructing the project. When those are finished, the architecture work would be 75 percent complete, Johnson said.

Window differences

Commissioners Larry Allen and Stephanie Kessler agreed, but commission vice chairwoman Keja Whiteman did not.

"It doesn't seem logical in my mind to spend a $115,000 on something that may stop some of the bullets but not others," she said. "So I don't think it's the best use in my mind."

That figure would pay to use ballistic glass for the lower 8 feet of a floor-to-ceiling window in the lobby and several windows on the sides building below 5 feet 4 inches. It would also cover filling spaces in all the walls' concrete blocks with sand and using ballistic-resistant doors for the four entrances.

Windows higher up would be made of normal glass.

Some caliber bullets would be able to penetrate the fortified features, however, Johnson said. No other courthouse he has built in Wyoming has them either.

Commissioners also approved materials for the exterior design. The building is to have a ground-face concrete for the lower portion and a product looking like stucco called EIFS above.

"What we were trying to accomplish is a building that has a civic quality to it but with a more contemporary way," Johnson said.

Cost cuts

The materials are cost- and energy-efficient, Johnson said, and simple horizontal banding would add visual interest. Steel in an awning over the entrance, in a canopy on the front of the building and in two large panels on the walls would contribute inexpensive decorative elements.

County building maintenance supervisor J.R. Oakley was concerned about the EIFS, or Exterior insulation finishing system, because birds have burrowed into the material at the county courthouse.

Architect Rick Backes, of Reilly Johnson, said he would investigate using a hardening material on top of the EIFS, which he described as like a nylon-covered Styrofoam.

Electronic key cards would be necessary for some doors, such as the judge's door, for code reasons, Backes said. In a fire, they would unlock automatically, a feature impossible with mechanical keyed doors.

It could be eliminated from some doors, however, Johnson said.

Trading out LED lights would be cheaper, Johnson said, but lower-tech bulbs require more replacing over the long run. The lamps would be just as bright, however.

Several commissioners said they were interested in using conventional lights to cut costs.

Having holding cells for prisoners awaiting court appearances could make a generator necessary, Backes said.

"When you have that occupancy of the building you have to have what's called a 'smoke evacuation system,' he said. "That system has to be on an emergency generator."

In the event of a fire, the device would clear smoke from the cells where prisoners would be trapped until court security moved them.

In its permitting process, the City of Riverton might agree the secure detention was an "accessory use" of the building and not require the smoke-clearing system, Backes said, allowing the generator to be eliminated. If it was emergency lighting would run on battery packs.

Thompson was concerned a generator would be necessary to keep the building warm enough to prevent damage during a winter power-outage.

The architects said they would investigate eliminating the generator.