Some municipal councils are concerned about the pace of the Casper Business Center design process; full plan for use

Casper City Council approved the purchase of the Casper Business Center during a special meeting in late April. (Brendan Lashance, Oil City News)

CASPER, Wyatt. – The city of Casper bought the Casper Business Center for $ 8 million this spring, with plans for the building to eventually become home to police headquarters and other city services.

In May, the city council approved a $ 2,061,978 contract with the Police Facility Design Group for the Kansas City-based architectural firm to begin design work to renovate the building’s interior. However, before the design work progresses, the company needs clear guidance on the city’s full plans to use the space, city manager Carter Napier told the city council on Tuesday.

While most of the building will be occupied by Casper Police Department, the full use plan includes the possible relocation of the Public Safety Communication Center, municipal court, EMS fire administration and information technology to Casper’s business center, Napier said.

Much of this is part of the city’s plan after the purchase was announced in April, but IT is a newer part of the mix. The relocation of IT to the Casper Business Center makes sense, given that it works closely with police management and deployment, according to Napier.

The relocation of IT would also have the advantage of freeing up space and thus reducing some of the need for repairs in the town hall, the city manager added. The city has set aside $ 2.6 million to renovate the town hall, a facility built in 1978, but the city council decided to postpone the project this spring after bids from five construction companies returned to a $ 6 million price north.

The training space for both police and firefighters is expected to be part of the design of the Casper Business Center, Napier said.

Board member Lisa Engebretsen asked if there were still plans to move the Code Enforcement to the Casper Business Center. The idea has been explored, but because Code Enforcement is working closely with Community Development, it will remain in the city hall, Napier said.

Council member Bruce Knell asked for the relocation of the city prosecutor’s office to the Casper Business Center. Although there will be room for both the prosecutor’s office and public defenders at the Casper Business Center, the city’s prosecutor’s office is doing a lot of work with the city manager’s office and community development, according to Deputy City Prosecutor Wallace Trembat.

When board member Jai-Ayla Southerland asked if there were other employees who were considering relocating to Casper Business Center, Napier said it was considering relocating all services that often interact with the public due to ample parking at Casper Business Center. However, it was decided that this is unlikely to lead to significant savings in the reconstruction of the town hall and may not lead to the provision of better services to the public, said Napier.

Casper Business Center plans also take into account expected space needs as the police department, municipal court and IT grow in the future:

(City of Casper)

Council member Amber Pollock asked whether future space needs are projected solely on the basis of expected population growth or other factors. Population growth was a factor in addition to things like industry standards, Napier said.

In 2018, the Police Facilities Design Team conducted a needs assessment of the Casper Police Department to help determine space needs. Police Chief Keith McFitters 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 one person assigned to digital crime, this is not expected to be enough until 2030, McFitters said.

The renovation of the building will not include the immediate reconstruction of office space, which is not yet needed, according to Napier.

Whatever services are relocated to the Casper Business Center, Knell said he believes it is crucial that the mix includes sending in addition to the police department, “because that’s what we sold to the public.”

The process of completing and approving projects before construction can take up to a year, Napier said during a working session on Tuesday.

Knell asked if there was any way to speed up this timeline.

– Is there a chance to move a little faster? he asked. Why do we have to wait a year for a 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 was that the slower the design process, the higher the construction costs the city may face in the face of inflation. Napier said he shared similar concerns.

Board member Steve Katie, who is working with Knell on a committee working to find a solution for a new police headquarters, reminded Knell that an architect had briefed the committee on the bidding and design process. Cathy said he understood that the project could take up to three years to complete. If there are ways to speed up the process, Cathy said he would like to see them too.

Knell said he understood that the whole process would take a maximum of two and a half years.

“Anyway, that’s it,” he said.

The city council approved the city’s full plan for the Casper Business Center on Tuesday, which should allow design work to progress. The actual design of the space is likely to see some adjustments to what the city offers due to the complexity of the project, a note from city staff said. This note includes further details on what the city has to offer.

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