A family-owned daily newspaper serving Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming since 1949

Squeaky wheel

Sep 21, 2012 - By Steven R. Peck

The shortcomings of Riverton's county government facilities aren't going away

It shouldn't take a bullet through the wall to make progress on an improved county court facility for Riverton, but that frightening development might be what finally does the trick.

Investigators and other officials aren't giving much information on the gunshot earlier this summer that sent a round through an exterior wall of the building on South Federal Boulevard, but they took it seriously enough to throw up huge, awkward-looking barricades around the place.

The incident attracted enough new attention that the Chief Justice of Wyoming, among other higher-ranking leaders, has now taken an interest in either improving safety at the current building or spurring work to develop a new justice facility.

The black marks against the mishmash of a structure near the Fremont County Fairgrounds have been accumulating for years. It has been pressed into duties it was never intended to serve. I has been amended, remodeled and renovated numerous times in numerous ways. The courtroom recently underwent another reworking to improve security there, but many say that work has served to magnify the shortcomings elsewhere in the building.

We are making do with what we have, which is the responsibility everyone has in every walk of life. But the failings of the place have been dealt with for a long time now, and there is understandable impatience for a better, more-permanent solution.

Inherent in any discussion of county facilities is Riverton's position as the largest population center in Fremont County, which would, simply by virtue of statistics, appear to warrant a "county building" befitting both the size of the community and the demands that population places on county services.

These facts are not lost on county leaders. The Fremont County Commission, the Fremont County Court, the Fremont County Sheriff's Office and other county departments all recognize the shortcomings of county government facilities in Riverton. Planning and funding discussions have taken place numerous times before, leading to a clear understanding that the problem isn't going away and detailing what it would take to remedy it.

But that bullet hole in the side of the building was an eye-opener. We don't know whether it was an accident, a random act or a deliberate one, but any of the three possibilities is worrisome as the security of judges, juries, court officials, spectators and, yes, suspects is considered. The same goes for the staff and customers in other departments who must do business at the county compound.

There are competing priorities for planning and funding, and the recent renovation of the court room and surrounding area has improved the interior conditions significantly. But the visit from the Supreme Court chief following the gunshot clearly showed the importance of moving ahead with preparations for a suitable county government installation in the county's biggest city, built and planned for its intended use.

Riverton's wheel is squeaking loudly, and quieting it will take more grease than has been provided so far.

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