Lander council provides parameters to community center steering committee; the new building will be on the original site

On Tuesday, the Lander City Council set parameters for the community center steering committee. (Joshua Scheer photo)

By Joshua Scheer, reporter,

(Lander, Wyo.) – After lengthy discussion Tuesday evening, the Lander City Council gave the community center steering committee a couple more parameters to help guide the process.

Ultimately, per a motion from Councilor Cade Maestas, the steering committee was instructed to work the design of the new building on the same site as the original community center to possibly include adjacent land, with a budget of $3.5 million, at 15,000 to 18,000 square feet in size and with uses being a community and convention center.

The discussion stemmed from members of the steering committee not knowing how much freedom they have in designing and preparing the future structure. The original community center was totalled in a late June fire caused by faulty lighting on the front porch.

Before talks truly began, City Community Resource Coordinator Gary Michaud said there is $1.3 million from insurance to use, and through leveraging those for state funds, as well as local fundraising, a possible budget for the new building is $5 million.

Committee member Paul Guschewsky asked if a Dec. 7 deadline for a preliminary design could be extended 30 days. He also asked if the committee was free to explore other properties beyond the original site.

Mayor Mick Wolfe said no timelines are set in stone. Maestas noted that the Dec. 7 date was set by the architects at Plan One Architects, not the council. None of the council expressed a problem with extending that initial date.

“I think we need to take our time and do this right,” Wolfe said.

Councilor Linda Barton said the idea of searching for other sites concerned her. “I think we’re complicating things,” she said.

Committee member Jack Nicholas took to the podium and expressed a number of forward-thinking ideas for how the construction of the new building could be utilized. He called the present site “horribly inadequate.” He noted that the city’s master plan, which was approved in September, suggests the new community center could be combined with a recreation center.

Nicholas suggested a couple possible alternative sites, as well as put forward that the new building could be combined with the proposed arts and sciences center. He detailed projects in Saratoga and Casper similar to what the city is doing and said it would be prudent to look at all options before getting too deep into the project. A funding idea he threw out was a bond initiative, as interest rates are currently low.

Councilor Monte Richardson, who is also on the committee, said he no problem extending the December deadline, but he was against looking for a new site. He also said with the cuts Gov. Matt Mead is looking to do, there are no guarantees of help from the state.

“Why have a steering committee if we’re going to tell them what to do?” Wolfe said, adding that he did agree it should stay on the original site. He also said he was against building a recreation center, as he doesn’t know how the city would keep it staffed.

Nicholas interjected the council’s discussion multiple times, saying no one had enough information to make any decisions that evening.

Maestas made his motion outlining what he called only “a framework to get started.” The parameters he set were approved 5-1, with Councilor Buddy Spriggs being the lone ‘no’ vote. He did not explain his decision. Council President Nancy Webber was not in attendance.

No timelines were set, though Wolfe said he would like to see the community center completed by summer 2014.