The Natrona County Board of County Commissioners discuss hiring MOA Architecture to design and construct the new Casper-Natrona County Health Department building. (Tommy Culkin, Oil City News)

CASPER, Wyo. — After months of planning, interviews and discussions, the Natrona County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously voted to award the project of designing and building a new Casper-Natrona County Health Department building to Casper-based MOA Architecture.

The committee tasked with making a recommendation to the commissioners used a points system to weigh the different firms against one another, and in both the request for proposal responses and the interview stage, MOA had by far the highest score.

“MOA’s score was 66.6 out of 70,” said local architect Lisa Hubbard, who led the selection committee. “GSG’s was 35.7. Hein-Bond was 39.7 out of that 70.”

Hubbard said the committee was impressed by the company’s experience at designing and constructing health buildings, adding that the company has overseen several in recent years.

“They’ve got a lot under their belt, about a million square feet just in the last two or three years,” she said.

Commissioner Peter Nicolaysen praised the firm’s experience, too.

“I think we’re going to be very happy with them as our architects moving forward,” he said.

Though MOA scored the highest in the selection committee’s grading system, Hubbard said its fees were also higher than the other finalists’. Despite that, she urged the commissioners to hire the firm, saying it would save money in the long run because of all the services MOA can provide.

The estimated final cost of the project was listed at $31,643,625. Of that, $26,392,625 will be for construction. Hubbard stressed, though, that those numbers are just estimates.

“We use words like ‘probable’ and ‘opinion’ because at this early, early stage, you have to start somewhere,” she said.

MOA Architecture estimated it would take about 10.5 months for design work, roughly 16 months for construction, two months for post-construction and a year for a warranty period. When all is said and done, Hubbard said, it will be around March 2026 when the new building is up and running.

Commission Chairman Steve Freel asked if 10.5 months is a normal length for design, and Hubbard said it is.

“The more time spent [on design], the less time it’s going to take,” she said.

Casper-Natrona County Health Department Executive Director Anna Kinder said the new building has been a long time coming, and she’s excited to move forward with the project. The building will be located at 12th Street and Conwell Street, and will likely be roughly 35,000 square feet, Hubbard said.

“We’re extremely limited on space. There’s no ability for an employee to find their way between departments,” Kinder said. “It’s just not functional, and during COVID we found that we weren’t able to keep people safe.

“This is amazing. I’m super excited to move forward and take this step. This doesn’t feel real yet.”