City to target public intoxication in developing next FY budget; Costs may rise for RPD

Councilor Richard Gard made a point during discussion at Tuesday's night's Riverton City Council meeting. Listening in were Jonathan Faubion, left, and Mayor Ron Warpness. (Ernie Over photo)

Councilor Richard Gard made a point during discussion at Tuesday’s night’s Riverton City Council meeting. Listening in were Jonathan Faubion, left, and Mayor Ron Warpness. (Ernie Over photo)

By Ernie Over, managing editor,

(Riverton, Wyo.) – The weather played a role, again, in Tuesday night’s Riverton City Council meeting as two informational presentations were postponed as officials from Volunteers of America and the Children’s Advocacy Project were unable to attend. The two organizations hail from Sheridan and Casper, respectively.

The failure of the two groups to arrive at the meeting did not preclude the council talking about at least one of them, Volunteers of America (VOA). The top goal of the city council for 2013 is to target public intoxication and VOA is in the process of merging the Fremont County Alcohol Crisis Center in Riverton into its statewide organization.

“They are close to finalizing the merger, about 85 percent through with their due diligence,” City Administrator Steven Weaver reported. “I’m very excited about this group as it will take us to a whole nother level.”

During a work session prior to Tuesday’s regular meeting, Weaver asked the council for direction as he and city staff begin to prepare the 2013-14 Fiscal Year budget. He listed the four main goals of the council for this year and asked what kind of funding, if any, should be directed toward the goals.

Weaver noted that in meeting with VOA officials, they indicated they would be seeking an additional $12,500 on top of the current city contribution of $100,000 if the merger is completed so they would have sufficient funds to begin operations with. Weaver said VOA is interested in reducing the city’s contribution as they acquire other grants and revenue sources to operate the Riverton center, which would change from a total alcohol detoxification center into a combination detox and treatment center, with emphasis on the treatment. He said VOA will also approach the county with a similar request, and he said they plan to talk with the Tribes of the  Wind River Reservation.

Riverton Police Chief Mike Broadhead

Riverton Police Chief Mike Broadhead

Councilor Lars Baker, the liaison with the crisis center, said the new orientation of a VOA center would most likely increase the city’s police department budget as fewer slots would be available for those who are simply intoxicated and who presently check in to the center for a place to sober up overnight.

“In the short term, we’ll have more need of using the jail in Lander, so I’ll be looking at that line item, “ Police Chief Mike Broadhead said. “The solutions lie in the treatment path, and that will take some time to turn around. With 30 beds now available, they may limit intox admissions to 10 a night, with the other 20 beds reserved for longer term treatment clients.” The chief said he hopes to see significant reductions in the public intoxication problem within three years. “We may have some short term pain for some long term gain,” he said.

Councilor Jonathan Faubion said public intoxication, “is a difficult and perpetual problem that is at the top of most’s people’s list.”

Weaver also said the group would like to be in a new building within 18 months.

The council was also scheduled to look at Community Service Grants, those local groups who seek funding from the city, but time ran out before they could get to that item. Councilor Richard Gard asked that another work session be planned so the council could discuss that topic in greater detail. Gard indicated he saw problems with the current funding allocations and wanted more time to “somehow target that money better.”

Weaver said the city currently has nine contracts with community service organizations totaling $372,000.