CHEYENNE – It has been a very busy two weeks. I spent last week on vacation playing golf with a group of friends in Mesquite, Nevada and St. George, Utah. I have not played much over the past couple of years, and it felt great to get out and swing the sticks. Both communities have become destination vacation spots with great golf venues and other fun things to do. I had a blast and am ready to get back to work.
We have a very active development community in Cheyenne these days. I met with one of the most active to discuss the good and the things we need to work on. We lamented the cost of housing development. They are working on a project that had targets of $250,000 price points. With the increasing costs, it cannot be done for less than $290,000. He shared that if the Board of Public Utilities (BOPU) and the South Side Water and Sewer District would work together, we could make some projects much more affordable. I appreciated his suggestions on how the city can improve, and we will be discussing his ideas.
I attended a Joint Appropriation Committee meeting to testify on the Fire A retirement fund that is going bankrupt. Cheyenne has 79 firefighters in this retirement fund, and I am working to make sure we honor our promise to fund their retirements. The good news is the committee has agreed to sponsor a bill to save the fund. The bad news is it will cost Cheyenne $6.5 million dollars over the next 20 years. The truth is we do not have a choice, we owe it to the retirees.
Dr. Farr contacted me about naming a triangle park for the late Bill Dubois. As part of the recently passed naming policy, one needs to collect signatures as part of the process. In this case, the number of signatures is 300. On Monday, the Farr’s gave me a petition package with 600 signatures. I will be presenting the petition to the city council at our next meeting, and they will decide on the naming of the park. The triangle is across the street from the Dubois Addition made up of seven homes designed by Bill’s father. Seems like the perfect location.
I spent Tuesday through Thursday traveling to Washington D.C. with a group from the Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce. The goal was to visit our congressional delegation and their capable staffs. We started with a visit to the chamber’s Washington representation, J.R. Reskovac. He did a great job of updating us on the status of the infrastructure bill and the reconciliation bill. J.R. has been a real asset for the chamber and has assisted in military and transportation issues for years now.
We were blessed to get an update from members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They gave their perspective on the infrastructure bill and the impact it will have on Wyoming. It will bring over two billion dollars to our state to help with our backlog of road maintenance, broadband, bridges, and water infrastructure. Their economist gave an update on inflation and the economy. Good news is the economy is rebounding, bad news is inflation is starting to be a concern. We also asked about the lack of employees and where they have gone. There are currently two million more available jobs than folks looking for work.
Our first congressional meeting was with Senator Lummis. We met in her office, and she updated us on her committee assignments in Banking, Environment and Public Works, and Commerce. She was also just assigned as the ranking member of the Science and Space sub-committee. We are all excited about this opportunity to expose Wyoming businesses to the opportunities in the space sector. We spoke about her support of Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) and how important it is to F.E. Warren Air Force Base. We spent a lot of time discussing regulations and how it is affecting our local businesses, especially our hospital. We appreciate her support.
Our next stop was to Representative Adrian Smith of the Nebraska 3rd District. Elyse Schlage, the economic development director from Kimball joined us on the trip. GBSD will have a big impact on the western Nebraska and Kimball area, and it is important for us to all be working together. Rep. Smith reminded us that they have more missiles than Wyoming does, and that he is supportive of the upgrade. The impact to housing and infrastructure will be felt in Nebraska for more than a decade. Rep. Smith’s support is essential for the communities in western Nebraska.
Our next stop was with Representative Liz Cheney. Rep. Cheney is on the House Armed Services Committee and has been a great supporter of our local military in Washington D.C. We talked about GBSD and that it is on track, and what needs to be done between now and when the program gets underway. We also talked about the Enhanced Use Lease (EUL); the housing development we are trying to get started to help with the shortage of housing for our military members. Updating our C-130’s to the newest J version was discussed as a goal for the chamber to ensure our mission will continue. The 153rd Air Lift Squadron has an economic impact of more than $300 million a year to our local economy. We learned Randall Luthi from the Governor’s staff was in D.C. to educate congress on coal and how renewable energy cannot replace coal jobs one for one. We appreciate all the support.
Our last congressional meeting was with Senator John Barrasso. I was able to meet up with an old friend of Judy and mine, Bryn Stewart, who has worked for Senators Thomas and Barrasso for more than 20 years. Sen. Barrasso shared his concern about the administration’s energy program, we are now importing more oil from Russia than we get from Alaska. Sigh! The biggest concern he is hearing is the plan to require banks to report transactions from $600, and how he and all our delegation are working to kill this idea. He understands how inflation is hurting Wyoming families and the stress of making ends meet. We talked with all our congressional representatives about the vaccine mandates, and they all support the vaccine, just not the mandate. We enjoyed Senator Barrasso’s stories and support.
I appreciate the chamber of commerce for annually making the trek to D.C. to engage our delegation in discussions about issues that matter to Cheyenne. We had 27 people that told our story and asked for support. This included the chamber director from Casper and a Gillette representative that gave the group a statewide view. They were a fun group and I look forward to continuing our friendships.
It was fun to travel but seeing the buffalo on the hill as we drove north on I-25 made me smile and happy to be home.
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