Who’s responsible?

Council unsure how to move forward with old State Hospital buildings

By Kayne Pyatt, Herald Reporter
Posted 6/5/24

EVANSTON — The need for an RFP (request for proposals) for the abandoned Wyoming State Hospital buildings was brought up by councilmember Jesse Lind at the Evanston City Council work session on …

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Who’s responsible?

Council unsure how to move forward with old State Hospital buildings


EVANSTON — The need for an RFP (request for proposals) for the abandoned Wyoming State Hospital buildings was brought up by councilmember Jesse Lind at the Evanston City Council work session on Tuesday, May 28. In addition, the council heard reports and budget requests from Arts Inc.; the Urban Renewal Agency; Uinta County School District No. 1 and the Evanston Parks and Recreation District.

“I am asking the city to initiate an RFP for the State Hospital buildings,” Lind said. “The council already passed a resolution accepting the buildings, and we have a year to do something with them. Why don’t we offer the property to someone who may want to do something with them? The city can release an RFP, accept proposals and take them to the state.”

Mayor Kent Williams said the city does not own the property, so it would be difficult to put out an RFP, and Lind responded that the state gave the city a year to come up with a plan.

“The devil is in the details,” attorney Mark Harris said. “One thing that has occurred recently is that the mayor received an invitation from the Department of Health inviting the council and department heads to tour the hospital buildings on June 14. We may get more information from them at that time.”

Harris explained that three different entities are involved: the Wyoming Department of Health controls operation of the buildings; the Wyoming Office of State Land Commission controls the sale of the land; and the Wyoming State Building Commission controls any sale of the buildings. The county assessor determines the fair market value of the property.

“If we do an RFP, the question from contractors will be, ‘Who owns the property?’” Harris said. “Ownership is an issue. This property was built for public use; if the city sells it, they would have to go through the whole process of a zone change, meeting with Planning and Zoning and subdivision requirements.”

The discussion continued as to who would be the contact entity on the RFP, the city or the state. Harris said when Rep. Jon Conrad (R-Lyman) was at an earlier council meeting, he had asked the city to initiate the RFP and the council had voted in support of it. Lind agreed and confirmed that the goal was to ask the city to do the RFP.

Councilmember Jen Hegeman said, “If we don’t act soon, the buildings will go back to the state to demolish and who knows what will be put there. We would be losing a prime piece of real estate right in the heart of the city, and I fear what will happen to it. We can’t afford to lose the possible tax base that could come from developing that property.”

Harris told Lind that he would be happy to sit down with him and discuss the details to see if they could move forward.

The discussion ended with no firm commitment concerning an RFP from the city.

Arts Inc. chair Diane Sellers addressed the council and provided a history of the organization before asking the council to consider funding Arts Inc. in the amount of $10,000 — with $5,000 for the Celtic Festival and $5,000 for MAT Camp.

“As you know, we have been going through the process of reorganizing and have had to cancel some events,” Sellers said. “We now operate with volunteers only.”

“This year’s Celtic Festival was a big success with ticket sales up 34% from 2023,” Sellers said. “The Celtic Festival operating costs are around $57,000, and MAT Camp operating costs are $32,000. We are committed to continuing to serve the community and surrounding areas. I want to thank the city for their past support and hope you will continue to do so.”

Nathan Prete with the Urban Renewal Agency (URA) board of directors, provided the council with copies of their 2023 annual report which included: the listing for sale of the Hotel Evanston and the Strand Theatre; sale of the annex portion of Hotel Evanston for $18,000; the Brewfest raised approximately $12,000; Music in the Air at Depot Square concert series were held during the summer and Rocky Mountain Power Foundation donated $5,000 in support.

In addition, the city map had been updated to show the Urban Renewal District; board members Rocco O’Neill and Julie O’Connell were accepted into the Leadership Wyoming program; URA is developing an economic strategic development plan; and they hired Sponenburgh and Co. to manage URA accounting and financials.

“Our projects in 2024 involve a live auction to be held in early June for the Hotel Evanston, and we are working on an MOU with a buyer for the Strand Theatre,” Prete said. “We are co-sponsoring with the Uinta County Economic Development Commission the sales tax initiative to be on the primary ballot in August.”

UCSD No. 1 Superintendent Ryan Thomas was the last to report and request funds. Thomas expressed his appreciation for the partnership the school district has with Parks and Recreation and the desire to continue that agreement to share facilities. The agreement also includes who is responsible for repairs and replacement of equipment.

“Currently, the agreement is that the mill levy amount, which is around $400,000, is shared equally between parks and rec and the school district and any amount levied over $400,000 is negotiated between us,” Thomas said. “We would like to ask that you give parks and rec the first $250,000 and anything above that will flow to the school district; with the opportunity to negotiate. We can use those extra funds to purchase sports equipment for recreational activities.”

Mayor Williams asked Parks and Recreation Director Kim Larson what she thought about Thomas’s suggestion.

“I value the relationship with the school district. We could get by doing what we are currently doing, but we would have no room for growth or inflation,” Larson said. “My concern is if costs increase, we would have to pass that increase on to programs and there would be no money to add new programs.”

Harris said his concern is the mill levy assessed on property has to be spent based on public participation and a school sports program would be prohibited by law.

Thomas reminded the council that the school district allows public use whenever K-12 isn’t using the facilities.

Mayor Williams told Thomas to bring a formal proposal to the council and they would review it.