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Commissioners to discuss safety fixes for court building

Sep 9, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

Various state and county officials toured the former High Plains Power office building last week as a potential site for a new Riverton court building.

The inspection of the building at 230 W. Main St. followed recent concerns about a bullet that penetrated the Riverton court facility's exterior in July.

Updates about a task force's recent examinations of the court's current building by the fairgrounds and other potential sites will be part of the county commission's meeting Tuesday in Lander.

"The group that's been looking at this ... we've identified options for the current building that we're in, identified options that might be available to us outside of that building," Sheriff Skip Hornecker said.

Commissioner Travis Becker, who serves as the board's liaison to the Riverton court security committee, said there are many options under consideration.

He said a vulnerability assessment team, comprised of the state Homeland Security Office, the U.S. Marshal's Office and others, visited the Riverton facility.

"They looked at the situation that we're in in the current building and looked at some options of how we can fortify it," Becker said.

One question officials face is what it would cost to upgrade the current building to improve its security.

"There's several options that the team gave for the current building, and a lot of it is going to come down to the cost: How much more do we want to put into a building to fortify it when we know it's an inadequate building?" Becker said.

The cheapest plan is to keep the large metal storage containers that were installed outside the building after the shooting, because creating concrete walls carries a hefty price tag, he said.

"You're going to have to look at some serious engineering costs to look at that," he said. "With costs like that, you could go into six digits."

Becker said that in his opinion, concrete walls would not be a smart financial move for a building that needs to be replaced.

How the High Plains building fits into the equation remains to be seen.

"I was up there looking at the building with the rest of the group," Becker said. "I don't even know if that's an option. That's up to the commission. ... They asked me to go up and look at that building."

Tuesday's commission agenda includes a 15-minute time slot at 9:45 a.m. for a closed-door executive session about a potential property acquisition. State law allows governmental boards to discuss land purchases in private.

Becker and Hornecker said numerous options are under consideration.

"We're kind of looking at all options, but I understand it's going to be discussed Tuesday at the commission meeting," the sheriff said.

Other issues include funding that could help the county with remedies for the Riverton court facility security concerns.

"We're trying to identify funding sources, trying to identify emergency funding sources for the current building we're in, what can we do," Becker said. "Nothing solid has been developed. We're just looking at all kinds of options."