After nearly seven years of proposing, planning and designing, Laramie Public Works is consolidating their offices to one location at the former WyoTech north campus on Third Street.
The new location — scheduled for substantial completion in April 2022 — will house the solid waste, water and waste water departments, as well as city administration, engineering and the street/fleet division.
The city purchased the old building complex in 2017 with the intention to move public works into the facility.
“The idea behind purchasing that property — and it had been an idea for years — was (always) to consolidate the public works into one location,” said Brooks Webb, director of Public Works in an interview Tuesday.
Malea Brown, chief operating officer, also joined the conversation and said they purchased the property with plans to demolish the buildings on the western side of the property.
“All the buildings, except for the [main] were planned to be demo’d from day one,” Brown said.
Webb added the initial use of the buildings, approximately 40 thousand square feet, was inefficient.
“The way it was arranged … there was a lot of space in there not being used,” he said, adding it was an unnecessary cost because utilities still had to be paid on the unoccupied spaces.
Webb said they had the city architect go through a feasibility study — an assessment of the practicality of a proposed plan — and said the findings ultimately led to the demolition of the site. It was determined rebuilding a new facility as opposed to refurbishing the old ones was more cost effective and sensible.
“[When] we went through the design work with our architect and we saw those costs, we asked the question: what’s it going to cost for a new building?” Webb said.
Because relocating public works has been a goal of the city’s for years, budgeting and planning the project has been in place for years, too. Brown said there is no concern about funding because they built the project into the Capitol plan without rate increases for residents.
The project is financed primarily through business funds which residents pay into through rate developments. Because of this, there was no need to rise rates for residents. Brown also said this project isn’t reliant on the state for funding outlined the sectors financing the construction: Solid Waste, Water and Waste Water and the general fund.
The entire project has a budget of $21.5 million, which includes every preconceived and contingent cost, Brown said. This means the land purchase, asbestos ( textiles, friction products, insulation and other building materials), facility design and construction; fueling station, water and sewer lines and all other upgrades (i.e. HVAC and electricity); roofing, insulation and energy-efficient windows — are accounted for under that sum. However, Brown made the point that each separate fund contributes to the final cost.
“If you just divided it by four, it’s about $5 million apiece,” Brown said, “It’s like having one or two small projects, when you think of it by funds.”
She also said when the budget is broken down by funds it isn’t as overwhelming to finance.
Brown and Webb called it an oversimplification but said one could think of it as a group of college students splitting ticket, hospitality, food and entertainment costs for a very expensive, all-inclusive vacation. The difference, they noted, is some will pay more depending on how the service will be used.
For this project, Brown said, “It’s very detailed …for example the purchase of the land included a lagoon. So sewer may have a little more costs,” adding you can’t simply divide it evenly because it’s dependent on how the municipalities will utilize the property.
Even though the site is not within city limits, Webb refers to the location as the ‘gateway to the city’ and the ultimate goal is to display the same façade there as the rest of the city.
For $21.5 million, public works gets a brand new administrations building, a large vehicle storage building, and a new fueling station in addition to two new side buildings (in the same locations as the old ones), increased parking and traffic zones and unified development code (UDC) fencing and landscape.
“Instead of just these big metal buildings, you know, it’ll look nice,” Webb said.
The new administration building is designed to house the engineering, administration and large public meeting areas within its two-stories and 20,000 square feet. The remaining buildings (Building A and G in the accompanying photo) will be used for other city entities, including Fleet Services, which maintains the city’s vehicles.
Webb and Brown said long-term operational costs are anticipated to decrease with less occupied spaces and expect the longevity of the buildings to increase.