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Casper Aquatic Center roof project going forward this summer with funding plan changes

Financial changes to the project have increased the estimated $1.86 million cost to $2.42 million.

Rust issues are mainly affecting the perimeter of the roofing inside the Casper Family Aquatics Center. (Brendan LaChance, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — With a significant rise in costs to fund and repair the City of Casper Aquatic Center’s corroding roof deck, councilors have agreed to a new funding plan that means cashing in invested city savings to keep the project on target.

Rust chips are literally falling from the ceiling of the aquatic center, and if left unaddressed could lead to instability of the facility’s roof structure. Financial changes to the project have increased the estimated $1.86 million cost to $2.42 million. According to the staff memo, based on the new set of facts, a liquidation of city investments is the less expensive option for funding the multimillion-dollar project.

During a Wednesday, May 24 council budget work session, city staff said plans are to advertise for bids in July and potentially start construction late that month. The project will continue into the fall, with a possible break so people may swim indoors during the winter months. Staff are still working on construction strategies.

In a city staff memo, Zulima Lopez, parks and rec director, and Jill Johnson, financial services director, recommended the council reduce the project contingency from 15% to 5% to lower the $2.42 million estimate to $2.23 million.

At the meeting, councilors said they preferred keeping a higher contingency at least through the bidding process to avoid the need to find more money later.

The Casper Family Aquatics Center roof deck was evaluated by structural engineers in 2022 after city staff noticed corrosion of the steel deck. Engineers recommended replacing the damaged structure roof deck, vapor barrier and membrane roofing systems to avoid catastrophic failure and associated safety risks. Their report warned the work should be completed within the next three years to avoid structural compromise to a level that poses a risk to life, safety and property.

By resolution, the council allocated 1% anticipated revenue over the next four years. The aquatics center roof deck was included in the allocation for a total of $1.86 million, $508,000 from public building repairs and $1.36 million from sports and physical fitness, with $466,000 allocated each year over the four years starting in fiscal year 2025. 

In February, the City Council approved an application for a State Land and Investment Board loan with 1% interest, which would have created funding for the project in fiscal year 2024. Wyoming Legislature action has increased the interest rate to 3.47%, however, according to the staff memo. This ups the interest from $142,162 over the five-year loan to $198,453, instead of the $56,291 originally estimated. In addition, project costs have increased by $551,693. 

“It is necessary to allocate funding over the four years of the projects being funded with cash on hand,” the May 15 city memo states. “However, because of the critical nature of the roof condition and the need to start construction earlier than FY27 when all the funds would be on hand, alternative funding was explored.”

City staff recommended changing the project funding from the State Land and Investment Board Construction Loan to self-funding a loan with city reserves.

“The question is if you would like to underwrite the cost of the project as well as bring the difference to table so we can be ready to go to bid,” City Manager Carter Napier said.

Napier said that while the city will lose in terms of lost interest, he agreed that cost is a fraction of the 3.47% the state now wants for a SLIB loan.

“We can’t be kicking the can down the road,” Mayor Bruce Knell said. “This is not an option. This has to get done.”

The city staff memo detailing the revised Casper Aquatic Center Roof Deck Funding Plan is here: