CHEYENNE – Although the city has questioned what to do about the former Hitching Post Inn for years, now that a plan is in the works, council members and city staff are being careful not to rush into such a big project.
In recent months, the council has been debating whether to buy a portion of the Hitching Post property to increase safety and improve access at the city-owned Ice and Events Center.
The council has postponed the issue since its Nov. 12 meeting, and at the council’s Finance Committee meeting Monday, it was recommended they postpone the issue again at next Monday’s City Council meeting.
Abatement of the entire property would take $2.1 million, and city staff are still working on estimates for the portions it’s looking to buy.
“Obviously, the holiday and the weather didn’t help us last week, so we weren’t able to get all of those numbers,” assistant city attorney Alessandra McCoy Fakelman said Monday. “But we’re getting updated asbestos abatement and demolition quotes from other contractors outside of the southeastern Wyoming area.”
The $329,630 property includes two buildings and an easement that the city is currently using for access to the Ice and Events Center. The two buildings would be abated and could potentially be resold by the city at a later date.
Right now, residents can access the Ice and Events Center from Lincolnway, thanks to an easement granted by the owner of the Hitching Post property. If the property is sold or changes hands, the city has no guarantee that the easement will remain.
Casey Palma, the agent for the property owner with Steil Surveying, stressed the importance of gaining ownership of that portion of land.
“The city doesn’t really have what it needs at this location,” Palma said.
With the easement, the city can’t install fencing or new lighting because it doesn’t own the property. Increasing safety near the Ice and Events Center is one of the main concerns for this project.
At the Finance Committee meeting, Councilman Pete Laybourn listed crime, arson and transients who stay on the property as reasons the city should make the purchase.
“It’s a danger to the community,” Laybourn said. “It is a tremendous detriment to our Ice and Events Center.”
Fakelman also said some families have encountered these issues while attending community events.
Immediately stabilizing the property is a goal of Chief Building Official Bruce Trembath, who put together a cost estimate. To add new fencing, upgrade the lighting and board up the buildings would cost the city about $60,000.
How to pay for the abatement of the project is still the unknown variable of the project. Because it’s a municipality, the city can apply for grants from the EPA to clear out the buildings, although nothing is set in stone.
“There is some contamination on the site. However, it isn’t as significant as people may think,” Fakelman said.
Although it is less contaminated than expected, Fakelman said they still can’t enter the buildings without hazmat suits.
Fakelman has spent about 200 hours working with the Hitching Post property. She said one of the reasons the city has focused on the project is because of public safety. The cost of emergency services responding to calls at the Hitching Post is what brought the problem to the city attorney’s office in the first place.
“We’re trying to do the best we can to address these issues,” Fakelman said.