Casper City Hall needs about $3 million in maintenance and remodeling to bring it up to health and safety codes and extend the building’s life a few more decades, according to city staff who brought the proposal to the council Oct. 8.
The remodel, dubbed the “City Hall Project S.A.F.E.,” would bring the building in line with fire code and federal Americans with Disabilities Act requirements while also improving security.
Architect Lyle Murtha of Stateline No. 7, which was contracted by the city to design a proposed remodel, gave the council a detailed explanation of which elements of City Hall need work and what the final product may look like.
The most costly improvement would be an updated “single-point customer service area” on the first floor of City Hall to streamline the process for residents seeking city services. That improvement would include updating restrooms that currently aren’t compliant with the ADA. That portion of the project is projected to cost about $1.1 million.
Other bigger-ticket items proposed include $518,000 worth of heating, ventilating and air conditioning ductwork; a $455,000 office space expansion (a cost that includes HVAC); and $147,840 for exterior improvements like lighting, benches and landscaping at the building’s entrance.
In addition to bringing the building up to code, the improvements would also improve safety, Murtha told the council. The proposed customer service area, for example, would enable city staff to check in residents and better watch for potential threats, like an active shooter.
The City Hall building is 41 years old and is “in need of significant improvements,” according to a memo from Casper’s risk and facilities manager Zulima Lopez. The memo states the only other means of bringing the building up to current safety regulations would be to build an entirely new building, which Lopez estimated would cost $10 million.
City Manger Carter Napier echoed this at the Oct. 8 meeting. He said there are a number of ADA issues “that just have not been dealt with over the years” and the building’s HVAC is “definitely an issue that we are struggling with fairly routinely.”
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It’s currently unclear where the $3 million for the improvements will come from. Already, $450,000 has been allocated from the fiscal year 2022 budget, but the rest of the money hasn’t been earmarked.
Councilman Kenneth Bates raised concerns over the number of city facility projects coming down the pike, like the need for a new police station and a new fire station.
Napier agreed the timing would be difficult, but he made a few suggestions on where to find the money.
“Generally speaking, the issue for me is more along the lines of sources of funding to make these projects happen,” Napier said. “My hope is that with the offloading of land assets we’re currently engaged in, coupled with the offloading of building assets ... that ostensibly those dollars ... would be enough to fund this project.”
He suggested the council consider selling the city center building and a building on Ash Street that the city currently owns. State employees work in the Ash Street building, so Napier said the state office building set to be constructed downtown would need to be complete before the city could see money from selling it.
By using that money to pay for the remodel, Napier said, the project would be revenue neutral and shouldn’t affect the city’s reserve funds.
The City Council generally favored the proposal, focusing on how the improvements could extend the life of the building.
“This is the first discussion of many we’re going to have about this proposal and how we’re going to fund it,” Mayor Charlie Powell said.