Developer wants multi-family housing for old WSH campus

Architect Terry Amundson, owner Joe M. Westerman, attorney Stephen Brooks and James Westerman with EverGreen Builders present a proposal for redevelopment of the old Wyoming State Hospital buildings. The presentation came during an economic development meeting held on Wednesday, May 24. (HERALD PHOTO/Kayne Pyatt)

EVANSTON — A discussion of a proposal to redevelop the old facilities at the Wyoming State Hospital campus was the main topic of discussion at the Uinta County Economic Development Commission (UCEDC) meeting held on Wednesday, May 24, at the Uinta County Complex.

Presenting the proposal from EverGreen Builders was owner Joe M. Westerman and his son, James Westerman, along with attorney Stephen Brooks and architect Terry Amundson. Westerman introduced Brooks as an urban renewal expert and said Amundson had worked for him for many years and was a specialist in designing multi-family housing.

The group met with the Evanston Urban Renewal Agency board of directors the day before the economic development meeting to present their proposal in hopes to gain the support of that group. Following that meeting the entire group took a tour of the old hospital grounds.

Westerman and the others were asking for a letter of support from UCEDC to attach to their proposal to the Wyoming Department of Health in the hopes of purchasing the property and saving it from demolition.

“All of the buildings, except the small one called Sheridan, are salvageable,” Westerman said. “The others will take a lot of work and we are debating on the Clark and Fremont buildings. We have seen all of the previous studies done on the site and no one from those studies had experience with developing housing. We are specialists in multi-family housing construction and want to provide much needed housing for the city of Evanston.”

Brooks told the commission that they are requesting the state give them nine to 12 months to do a study of the site and come up with a design and a proposal. The problem is the state knows how to demolish, not repurpose, Brooks said.

Westerman said, “The study of the site done in 2014-15, when they were planning the new facility, planted a seed for demolishing the old buildings. We want to stop that attitude. The are worth saving, they have historic value, and most of the people we have talked to want to see them saved.”

The group said they have been working with Kiley Ingersoll with the Wyoming Business Council and she suggested they get letters of support from local agencies and entities. Brooks said that the URA had stated they would have to get a resolution passed by the city council to extend their boundary area to include the state hospital site in order for URA to get involved.

Amundson said they plan to approach the redevelopment of the site in several phases. The first phase would be housing needs and then they would look at possibly a tech school or commercial possibilities; future plans would be based on the findings from their study.

Commission member and Wyoming State Rep. Jon Conrad said, “How are you going to stop the train? The legislature has already appropriated close to $54 million to start demolition. You need to work with me, Rep. Ryan Berger and Sen. Wendy Schuler to help with the state.”

Commission member Brent Hatch said county landfill officials have already stated they don’t have room in the landfill for all the waste from razing the old buildings.

The commission unanimously voted to write a letter of support immediately as it appeared it was a matter of urgency.

Audience member Shelly Horne offered to get the group a letter of support from the Historic Preservation Commission, as well.

Hatch reported that the California company that has written a letter of intent for the 1,000 acres near the Bear River State Park had until the end of September to complete their study of the area. He said they would share all of their findings with the county and are dealing directly with the county commission.

The commission wants to reserve at least 50 to 60 acres for the county and the negotiation process will involve the state park, the county commission and UCEDC.

Uinta School District No. 1 Assistant Superintendent Doug Rigby handed everyone an invitation to participate in the ALICE active shooter response training the district is offering. The two-day course will be held on Aug. 7 and 8 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Evanston High School. After completing the course, the attendee will be certified to train others in the community.

Uinta BOCES No. 1 Assistant Director Sheila McGuire announced that the BOOST program, which is funded by the Department of Workforce Service and assists students ages 16 to 24 to receive a high school equivalency, has expanded the program via an ARPA grant to include people over the age of 24.

McGuire said the Ready to Work program received an increase on their grant from $150,000 to $445,000 to help low-income parents train for employment, help pay for childcare, work uniforms and necessary job equipment. It also will pay wages to the students while training and completing internships. BOCES also received additional ARPA funds to expand the program for people without children.

“We are always looking for more business partners to offer internships and training,” McGuire said. “If you know of someone who would be interested, please have them contact us.”

On August 28, BOCES will start a CDL course in cooperation with Wyoming Downs. The parking lot at the horse track will be used for driver training. Classes will also be held at the BOCES facility, with only four students at a time per class.

BOCES will offer a new online course in Cybersecurity, beginning this fall, from Western Wyoming Community College. The college received a grant for an electrical and instrumentation program which will also be offered at BOCES in the near future.

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