It is the week after the holiday season, and it feels good to be back at work. I hope you all had a peaceful season, however you decided to celebrate. I know Judy and I enjoyed our time away. The only disappointment we had was having a bit of sickness at the house; dang colds kept our new grandson from being able to join us for most of the holiday. Thank goodness for FaceTime, we were able to see him, nonetheless. His parents were just being adults, who were concerned like most parents are nowadays about RSV. We get it, but we also hated it.
I’ve wanted a Rec Center built in Cheyenne for many years now. We have taken the concept to the voters a few times. Unfortunately, we haven’t been successful yet. A Rec Center would do so much for our quality of life, and really help our sports teams find a place to compete. This week, I met with some private citizens who have the plan to build a huge sports center that would include so many of the amenities Cheyenne is missing—a full-size football field, smaller turf fields, eight basketball/volleyball style courts, MMA/boxing area, tennis/pickle ball courts, gym/PT area, little league size baseball fields, and game areas. Can you believe they’re hoping to make all this indoors and under one roof? Jeff Bailey started this effort, after having a conversation with James Johnson of Cheyenne East and NBA player with the Indiana Pacers. They have committed to making this happen! However, a few things must be done before we move forward. First, we have to complete a study to validate the dream and also perform a market and competitive analysis. Our fingers are crossed that the numbers will come back positive. To Jeff and James, thank you both for your love of our city and willingness to make a difference.
We held our first meeting of the Governing Body on Tuesday. It seems impossible that exactly two years ago I was sworn into office as mayor. I will tell you again, I absolutely love my job! A couple of items were accomplished during this meeting. First, Scott Roybal, Mark Rinne, and Ken Esquibel were sworn into office as re-elected city council members for another four years. We also swore in our team of city officials for another two years of serving our residents. I really love both teams. Having Supreme Court Chief Justice Kate M. Fox give the oaths of office made the meeting even more special.
I brag about our city’s employees all the time, and every once in a while, I get to brag about some extra special team members…Patsy Flores worked in our Community Recreation and Events division. We had a retirement party for her on Tuesday to celebrate 46 years of exceptional service to our city, and we’re happy that her children and grandchildren who live out of town were able to surprise her with a visit. I wish Patsy a long and happy retirement.
The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has a very important mission in Cheyenne. Our downtown seems like the heartbeat of our community, and for the past 18 months, Visit Cheyenne has been hosting the DDA and doing a great job. However, the MOU for their services is about to expire and we are now working on how the management of the DDA should be structured going forward. I met with some members of the DDA’s board this week and we had a great conversation about the importance of the organization and started the process of moving forward. Thank you, Visit Cheyenne, for your leadership in our community and help with the DDA.
I don’t normally comment on our City Council’s committee meetings, but this week we had a few items I wanted to mention. In these inflationary times, we all feel the pain at the cash register. It is no different for our employees. We proposed some modest pay raises for our employees and the committee approved them. The next step will require a final vote at the City Council meeting next Monday evening. I’m so happy we are in a position to do something to support our great team.
Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) is a program that takes federal funds and lets the city distribute them to the less fortunate through non-profits. Unfortunately, the red tape and risks have made it hard to continue the program going forward. We requested the finance committee to discontinue our participation beginning fiscal year 2025. Casper and Douglas County, Colorado have recently made the same decision. They used words like unreasonable, unachievable, and ill-conceived when describing the rules attached to CDBG funding. These funds have done good work over the years in Cheyenne, and I am disappointed we have come to this point. One piece of good news is our non-profits will now be able to access CDBG funding by applying through the state’s program.
In lighter news, we had our holiday luncheon the first week of the new year. This gets everyone away from the pressures after the holidays and allows us to just enjoy being together. We had over 300 employees stop by for a wonderful roast beef and turkey dinner with all the fixings. \ I will say Culvers did a great job with both food and service! I truly enjoy spending time with our team. They made the day special.
I have experienced so many ‘firsts’ during my time as mayor, and this week wasn’t any different. Another first for me was testifying before the Industrial Siting Council (ISC). This spring, a large solar farm will be constructed near the Colorado border, next to highway 85. When there are large construction projects that could affect local governments, the ISC meets to determine what amount of the project’s tax funding would be used to help mitigate the impact. I was surprised that I had to raise my right hand to be sworn in. There was a court reporter, a hearing officer, and seven council members. It was an interesting and fun process. The City of Cheyenne asked for $87,000 to help offset the impacts of the non-local workers expected to come to town to build the facility. Other than the fact that I talk so fast that the court reporter could not keep up, the process went smoothly, and we were granted the funding requested. I appreciate the private investment coming to Laramie County, which will strengthen our economy and help our local utility provide electricity to our residents and industry.
I do love the new year, not the weather or wind, but I love the energy we all have going after new projects and finishing up those we left off from the previous year. Again, I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays, and Happy New Year to all!
If you have a question or comment for me, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll continue to answer your questions or concerns in the following Mayor’s Minute column.