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County offices in Riverton

Jul 7, 2017 By Steven R. Peck, Publisher

To close them so suddenly defies logic and erodes faith in local government

Whoever or whatever is responsible for the budget crisis that led to the sudden decision to close the Fremont County Treasurer's and Clerk's operations in Riverton, it is not the citizens who use, and need, those services.

But they now must bear the burden.

It's one thing if there simply isn't enough money available to staff the Riverton office. It's quite another if this closure is the upshot of the ongoing skirmish among various elected officials at the county courthouse.

In the very real and very uncomfortable fiscal environment of too many expenses and not enough revenue, elected leaders have been arguing about how much the projected county budget deficit is going to be, arguing about whether there is a difference between an essential service and statutorily required service, arguing about employee bonuses in one county department, and arguing about who does, or doesn't, have the authority to make certain budget decisions.

The solution to all these squabbles? Close the clerk's and treasurer's desks in Riverton.

The officials will say there's more to it, of course, but to the tax-paying public, that's exactly how it's going to look. Those citizens didn't cause the problems echoing from the county commission chambers to the treasurer's office, down the hall to the clerk's office and back again - but the guy who can't register to vote or fill out the form for his new license plates over his lunch hour is the one most inconvenienced.

Riverton thought it already had waged the battle over having county paperwork functions available in the city, and for the past decade or so it seemed that the battle had been won. But, no. Apparently not.

Riverton is Fremont County's population center, larger than the rest of the county's municipalities - Lander, Dubois, Shoshoni, Hudson and Pavilion - combined. Further, most of the unincorporated population that accounts for nearly half the county's total head count uses Riverton for most institutional and economic functions - shopping, banking, insurance, repairs, school, church and, yes, county government services.

Closing that office just made things a lot tougher for everyone from the ordinary citizen to the courthouse staff in Lander which must handle the extra work.

The status of the county offices in Riverton never appeared to have been a contested issue in budget discussions all spring. To suddenly make it a focal point at such a late date, and with such drastic consequences, isn't a confidence-building move from our county government.

This matter ought to be revisited, re-examined and, unless utterly impossible, corrected.

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2017-09-24