City Council Prepares for Land Sale to the State; Proposed Campus Would Consolidate Offices, Enhance Downtown
Casper City Council will hold a public hearing Aug. 2 about a proposal to finally sell about five acres of city-owned land to the State of Wyoming.
It's been a long time coming.
About a decade ago, the city acquired the land -- parallel to West Collins Drive north of the Natrona County High School -- for about $200,000.
Meanwhile, the state has been considering consolidating numerous departments -- some in deteriorating buildings -- around Casper in a centralized campus for efficiency and better service to the public.
A sale seemed logical, but it ran into some snags.
One problem dated to the 19th century when railroads crisscrossed what is now Casper. The tracks were gone, but disputes over rights of way clogged the ability for landowners to obtain clear title. Those issues were resolved with a nationwide series of court decisions, Mayor Daniel Sandoval said after a special work session Tuesday.
The other problem concerned negotiations with the state, Sandoval said.
"We were under the idea that we could put public parking as a condition of sale," he said.
The State Building Commission -- composed of the five statewide elected officials -- didn't like that because it could pose security issues for employees who would work late during the work week or work on Saturdays, he said.
"We met with the State Building Commission on Wednesday (July 13), and the answer is 'no,'" Sandoval said. "We're not going to be able to change the conditions of sale, and in order to go through and to not bog down the project with any further confusion, we've accepted that 'no.'"
The asking price is $770,000, and the state is going to accept that offer, Sandoval said. "It's good that they're going ahead with that, because it's a $40 million investment in our community."
Following on the heels of the meeting with State Building Commission last week, city council wanted to set the public hearing as soon as possible.
However, Sandoval and council members expressed frustrations with the process.
Sandoval said the building commission perhaps stonewalled the city to get it to drop the public parking request, and a legislator made a "strategic mention" about funding for cities if Casper kept pushing for the public parking.
Steve Cathey said it was hard to know what the commission was planning because it held a lot of meetings in executive session and didn't provide as much information as it knew.
Charlie Powell, with Sandoval agreeing, said he wanted council to remain cordial because the city would receive more than three times the purchase price of the land. The land had been appraised for $2 million, but the city was not obligated to sell it for the appraised value and it had not received any offers, he said.
Wayne Heili wanted to know if the state would follow through with the project, to which Powell responded that the money from an agreement about Abandoned Mine Lands funds was already appropriated for the project.
The state needs to consolidate its offices, some of which are dilapidated and would require a lot of money to fix, Powell said. The project would pump millions of dollars into the economy, especially in the construction trades, and would enhance the greater downtown area, he said.
"We should be ecstatic about this," Powell said.