City of Casper buildings need approximately $33 million in repairs; costs will soar to ~$93 million in five years without attention

CASPER, Wyo. – Buildings owned by the City of Casper currently need more than $33 million in repairs and if no investment is made in this regard, the cost could soar to nearly $93 million by 2027, according to a report produced by Alpha Facilities Solutions.

However, because Alpha’s assessments did not include an in-depth analysis of items such as plumbing, electrical, or HVAC systems, city council members questioned their accuracy.

While the scope of work under Alpha’s contract never tasked the consultant to conduct invasive inspection techniques, Council Member Bruce Knell expressed some frustration on Tuesday that the assessments did not include such works.

Without looking at the true state of things like pipes and electrical systems that are hidden in the bones of buildings, Knell said uncertainty remains about the extent of repair work that really needs to be done. Because the report bases some of its findings on assumptions based on things like building age, the costs it shows can inflate what the city really needs to spend, Knell said.

Current high-priority needs identified in Alpha’s citywide facility condition assessment total $22,378,008. If nothing is done, the cost to meet these high priority needs will increase to over $47 million by 2027, a memo from the City of Casper staff regarding the results of Alpha’s report said.

While the report says Casper may face significant costs in the coming years to ensure its facilities remain in good repair, City Manager Carter Napier said Tuesday he thinks it’s a wise move. decision for City Council to approve the contract with Alpha to conduct the appraisals, as this information will assist staff in preparing capital budget plans.

The information will also be useful when the city council is asked to consider acquiring or building new facilities, council member Amber Pollock said, adding that she believes the long-term maintenance costs of the inventory of the city must be taken into account when such questions arise.

“If we’re in charge of maintenance, maintenance isn’t nothing,” Pollock said.

The facility assessment covered 127 city-owned buildings and provided more detail in comprehensive narrative reports for 33 of the city’s major facilities. The city engaged Alpha to complete the assessments in November 2021 to help with capital budget planning, and the group provided a 20-year capital renewal schedule that identified any upgrades that might be needed, priorities and estimated costs.

According to the staff memo, the key building system needs in the report identified for the next five years include the following:

  • roof
  • Domestic water distribution
  • Sanitary waste
  • Fire sprinkler systems
  • Lighting branch wiring and fixtures
  • Interior finishes
  • HVAC distribution systems
  • Electrical service and distribution
  • Vehicular pavements

While Alpha staff traveled to Casper in January 2022 to perform on-site assessments, the assessments did not include in-depth analysis of things like plumbing, electrical, or HVAC systems that require maintenance techniques. invasive inspections. Instead, the assessments took into account the age of the buildings, visual checks of the conditions and the maintenance history of the building.

Council member Steve Cathey also questioned some of the assumptions built into the report, asking why it seemed to indicate a shorter repair and replacement cycle for certain materials in commercial buildings than he would expect in residential structures.

A member of the Alpha team said the consultants based some of their assumptions on service life standards set by the Building Owners and Managers Association. The report is more designed to give the city an idea of ​​when and where it should carry out more thorough testing of the conditions, and the consultant acknowledged that the actual lifespan of the building systems could be longer than the standards. BOMA.

The report rated the buildings using a Facilities Condition Index to help the city assess their condition and prioritize investments in improvements. Lower scores on the index indicate better condition, while higher scores indicate a greater need for attention. Scores are obtained by dividing the total replacement cost of systems that have exceeded the average lifespan by the current replacement value of the building.

The report indicates that the scores can be useful for:

  • Compare the status of different installations
  • Monitoring of any damage
  • Prioritize capital improvement projects that require the most investment
  • Deciding whether it makes more sense to repair or replace an installation

Scores of 20 and below are considered the desired range, while scores above 50 indicate the city may need to start making decisions about whether renovations or replacement are needed. However, the report notes that there is no recognized standard for what is considered an “acceptable or unacceptable” facility condition index score.

When the score reaches 50 or more, it indicates that the renovation costs could exceed 50% of what it would cost to replace the installation. This is an important line because it could trigger requirements under building codes or civil rights laws that could result in additional costs beyond repairing existing building systems, the report said.

“While it is not possible to predict what the additional costs will be until the project requirements are identified and cost estimates are prepared, in our experience the additional costs can range from 5% to 20 % by age of facility,” Alpha said in the report.

The average score of the 33 main buildings examined by the report was 14, indicating that most of the city’s main buildings are in good condition. The average score for the 33 main buildings is expected to increase to 37 by 2027. Although no property scored above 50, six properties need significant investment over the next five years or their score will exceed this threshold:

  • Marion Kreiner Pool
  • Metro Animal Shelter
  • Paradise Valley Pool
  • Casper Service Center
  • Fire station #1
  • Nicolaysen Art Museum

In addition to narrative reports and asset inventories for the City of Casper’s 33 major buildings, Alpha provided the city with data from its findings on 127 buildings on an asset performance planning software system to aid efforts. of planning.

The city’s initial plan is to budget 10% of the repair cost estimates provided by Alpha to begin performing the more thorough assessment of concealed building systems and making repairs actually deemed necessary, said the Director of Parks, recreation and public facilities, Zulima Lopez. advice.

That capital budgeting will wait until fiscal year 2024, Napier recommended. The 2023 fiscal year begins July 1, and staff have already prepared and presented a draft budget that City Council is ready to adopt.

When it comes time to budget for repairs, the city can lean on a “one cent,” also known as a “fifth penny,” the optional sales tax dollars if voters renew a cent this fall. The city projects $64.5 million in penny revenue over four years if voters choose to renew countywide local sales and use the tax in the November general election.

Over four years, the city would need about $13 million to complete the repairs if the city’s plan to allocate 10% of Alpha’s estimated costs comes close to the repairs actually needed. Napier said he hopes there will be fewer repairs actually needed, as it could quickly cut revenue by a penny.

Knell said he thinks it might be appropriate to set up a dedicated fund to support building maintenance over time. If actual repair costs are less than the roughly $13 million the city tentatively plans to budget over four years beginning in fiscal year 2024, the remaining money could be allocated to costs in future years.

The city already has a perpetual care fund that’s designed somewhat along the lines of what Knell suggested, Napier said. What would really help the city would be if voters approved an amendment to the Wyoming Constitution to allow local governments to invest money in stocks and shares, Napier said.

Voters will be asked to consider such an amendment on the ballot this fall. The state itself is already able to invest in stocks, and if Casper was able to do so, Napier said it would be a great advantage to create funds to deal with things like maintenance. long-term infrastructure.