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Chief justice and corrections boss endorse Riverton justice center plan

May 1, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Wyoming's chief justice and the Wyoming Department of Corrections director have thrown their weight behind the construction of a Riverton justice center.

The Fremont County Commission applied for a $2.6 million grant from the State Loan Investment Board to cover half the cost of the new center.

Chief Justice Marilyn S. Kite and Department of Corrections director Robert Lampert in separate letters stated their support of Fremont County's application.

"I suspect that no other application involves literally protecting the lives of state employees as well as other citizens," Kite said.

Neither official serves on the SLIB board, which will make the decision. The board comprises Wyoming's top elected officials, Gov. Matt Mead, Secretary of State Max Maxfield, Auditor Cynthia Cloud, Treasurer Mark Gordon and Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill.

Commissioner Travis Becker led the effort to plan a new justice center and said he did not know how much weight the letters would carry.

"But I think the more people who are on board with what we're trying to do, the better," he said.

Kite and Lampert toured the current facility last summer and understand the county's need, Becker said.

SLIB will not make a decision until June, and if it does not award the full amount, the county board might have to change its plans.

Commissioners decided in March to pursue a $5 million facility holding a courthouse and offices for the sheriff's and county attorney's offices.

Kite stated her support in a letter to the SLIB director and elected officials dated April 12.

"I am writing to urge your support of the grant proposal by the Fremont County Commission to construct the Fremont County Justice Center to be located in Riverton, Wyoming," Kite stated.

She went on to call the condition of the current Riverton circuit court building "dire" and commended the commission's plan to build a new facility. A grant for half of the $5.3 million cost would be the only way the county could build a new facility in a "reasonable timeframe," Kite said.

Lampert also supported Fremont County's application in a letter dated April 18 to SLIB grants and loans manager Beth Blackwell.

In a letter evaluating five potential SLIB grants related to public safety, Lampert said a new Riverton justice center would be the most expensive. The next project cost $129,000.

He said every application has merit.

"All of these projects appear to be technically feasible, compatible with the overall goals of public safety, and reasonable in terms of projected project costs," Lampert stated.

Still, he thought the Riverton justice center was most deserving of support.

"Despite the cost, I would place Fremont County's request first as it appears to have the greatest direct impact on citizens," he said.

Moves to build a new facility arose after it was found in July that a bullet had penetrated the current courthouse's exterior.