CASPER, Wyo. — Casper’s City Hall building officially opened with a public ribbon cutting and cake ceremony in December 1977. It was a crowning achievement after a years-long effort to clean up and redevelop the rowdy Sandbar district, better known for bars and brothels than the day-to-day operations of city government.
Now, more than 45 years later, the building is in the process of being emptied and readied for its first-ever major overhaul. It’s a process that will take nine to 12 months, but should extend the life of City Hall by decades.
“It’s been a fun challenge,” said Casper Parks, Recreation and Public Facilities Director Zulima Lopez, who is tasked with overseeing the move and building project.
Starting in June, contractors will replace and upgrade all of City Hall’s obsolete systems, including HVAC, duct work, lighting, electrical and plumbing. Fire suppression will be added, the ’70s-era bathrooms will be gutted and modernized to ADA compliance, and fresh paint and carpet will be applied.
The notoriously cramped City Council space for work sessions will be upgraded and enlarged, with improved seating for the general public. The City Council Chambers will get a cosmetic refresh as well.
Perhaps most importantly, the building will be upgraded to address the safety needs of the 21st century.
“Our intention is that we will have a single point of entry for our public,” Lopez said. That entrance will be on the east side right off David Street, where visitors will be screened before either entering or being escorted to offices.
Lopez said customer service offices will be downstairs, while other less public-facing entities will be spread upstairs.
Through years of planning, the first critical piece of this puzzle was finding the right space. The city’s acquisition of the Casper Business Center about a block away at 123 W. 1st St. gave Lopez the room and flexibility to make workable temporary offices for multiple city agencies and the roughly 75 employees to do their jobs.
Before that, they considered a city-owned building on Ash Street.
“The [CBC] is significantly larger than the Ash building, and we would’ve been crammed like sardines in that building,” she said.
The CBC will eventually be used by the Casper Police Department and undergo a complete renovation when the time comes. In the meantime, Lopez and her staff identified offices on multiple floors that were essentially move-in ready.
“This is a temporary solution,” she said, “so we didn’t want to invest money in new carpeting or paint, or repairing lighting or anything like that.”
The city’s IT department took charge first by moving in and setting up critical systems for other agencies.
“We started moving our first team out on April 17,” Lopez said, “and we’re hoping to move the last team out on the week of May 22.” Departments are separated into “groups,” which are moving one at a time to minimize disruption. The final group to leave City Hall and relocate will consist of those the public interacts with the most, Lopez said.
“The last week, we’ll move our financial service team, which is budget and accounting, as well as our customer service group that takes utility payments and those sorts of things,” she said.
Using suitable offices took priority over location in the CBC, so departments will be spread over various floors.
Lopez said that customer service departments will be easiest to access by the public. They’ll be in Suite 120 on the lobby level. The City Manager’s office has already moved into Suite 200 on the mezzanine level, she said.
“On the fifth floor we’ll have engineering, HR and the City Clerk’s office. On the sixth floor we have our city attorney’s office and budgeting and accounting group, and part of our finance group. And the seventh floor is community development.”
Lopez said City Council meetings will likely be held at the Lyric in the Old Yellowstone District while City Hall is closed.
Earlier this week, the Casper City Council authorized a $5.2 million contract with Caspar Building Systems to complete the project.
“I’m excited to see that this is finally happening,” Lopez said. “It’s something we’ve been working on for a very long time.”
“I know that citizens are concerned about the cost, but honestly, we expect to get another 40 years out of this building once it’s renovated.”