CASPER, Wyo – The City of Casper purchased the Casper Business Center for $ 8 million this spring, with plans to make the building the headquarters of police headquarters and other city services.
In May, the city council approved a contract for up to $ 2,061,978 with the Police Facility Design Group for the Kansas City-based architecture firm to begin design work on the building’s interior renovation. Before the design work can advance, however, the company needs clear guidance on the city’s comprehensive plans for the use of the space, city director Carter Napier told city council on Tuesday.
Although most of the building will be occupied by the Casper Police Department, the full utilization plan will also include the relocation of the Public Safety Communication Center, Municipal Courthouse, Fire-EMS Administration and Information Technology into the Casper Business. Center, Napier said.
Much of this has been part of the city plan since the purchase was announced in April, but IT is a more recent part of the mix. Moving IT to the Casper Business Center makes sense since it works closely with the police department and shipping, according to Napier.
Moving IT would also have the benefit of freeing up space and thus reducing some of the city hall’s renovation needs, the city manager added. The city has $ 2.6 million earmarked for renovations to the City Hall, a structure built in 1978, but the city council decided this spring to suspend the project after bids from five construction companies all returned to cost. over 6 million dollars.
The training space for both police and firefighters should be part of the Casper Business Center project, Napier said.
Board member Lisa Engebretsen asked if there were still plans to transfer Code Enforcement to the Casper Business Center. This idea has been explored, but with code enforcement working closely with community development, it will stay in City Hall, Napier replied.
Board member Bruce Knell has requested that the city attorney’s office be moved to the Casper Business Center. While the space will be included for both prosecution and public defenders in the Casper Business Center, the City Attorney’s Office works extensively with the City Director’s Office and Community Development, according to Deputy City Attorney Wallace Trembath.
When Council member Jai-Ayla Southerland asked if there were any other services that staff had considered moving to the Casper Business Center, Napier replied that moving all services that interact frequently with had been considered. the public due to the large parking lot at the Casper Business Center. However, it was decided that this is unlikely to contribute to substantial savings on city hall renovations and may not result in better services to the public, Napier said.
The plans for the Casper Business Center also take into account anticipated space needs as the police department, municipal court and IT grows into the future:
Council member Amber Pollock asked if future space needs were predicted based solely on projected population growth or if other factors existed. Population growth was a factor in addition to things like industry standards, Napier said.
The Police Facilities Design Group conducted a needs assessment for the Casper Police Department in 2018 to help determine space requirements. Police Chief Keith McPheeters said one of the things that could lead to the need for more space in the police department in the future is the rise in digital crime. Although the department has a person assigned to digital crime, this is not expected to be adequate by 2030, McPheeters said.
According to Napier, the remodeling of the building will not immediately include the rebuilding of office space not yet needed.
Whatever services are transferred to the Casper Business Center, Knell said he thinks it’s critical that the mix includes shipping as well as the police department, “because that’s what we sold to the public.”
The process to complete and approve projects before construction begins could take up to a year, Napier said during a working session on Tuesday.
Knell asked if there is a way to speed up that timeline.
“Is there any chance we can move a little faster?” she asked. “Why do we have to wait a year for the design?”
One year is a conservative estimate, as the Police Facility Design Group said the design work could be completed in six to eight months, Napier said.
Knell said his concern is that the slower the design process, the greater the construction costs the city could face given inflation. Napier said he shares those concerns.
Board member Steve Cathey, who served with Knell on a committee working to find a solution for a new police headquarters, reminded Knell that an architect informed the committee of the bidding and design process. Cathey said his understanding was that the project could take up to three years before construction is completed. If there are ways to speed up the process, Cathey said he too would like to see them happen.
Knell said his understanding was that the whole process would take two and a half years at the most.
“Anyway, it is what it is,” he said.
City council on Tuesday indicated its approval with the city’s comprehensive utilization plan for the Casper Business Center, which is expected to allow the design work to progress. The actual design of the space is likely to see some adjustments to what the city proposes due to the complexity of the project, a note from city staff says. That note includes more details on what the city is proposing.