I think this is my favorite sports weekend of the year. March Madness is such a great event. It gives the little guys from small conferences a chance to beat the blue bloods of basketball, and every year some do. Watching 12-seed Richmond beat 5-seed Iowa, 12-seed New Mexico State beat 5-seed University of Connecticut, and especially the 15-seed Saint Peter’s beating 2-seed Kentucky made my Thursday. I look forward to these games every year. One disappointment is the Mountain West lost all four games, including our beloved Cowboys. Looking forward to the rest of the tournament.
We have discussed our city council goals for this year. A big one is the construction of a gymnastics building. As a reminder, our current facility is going to be torn down by the school district to allow a new grade school to be built. Our Community Recreation and Events (CRE) team stopped by to give me an update on our progress and timeline. Our current plan is to build the gymnastics facility next to the Ice and Events Center. We are delayed due to the need for regional detention in the Hitching Post development area. We discussed if there is a better place to build that would allow the project to begin sooner. We do have a safety net; the school district may have located a temporary site for our program.
It seems like I have lunch with Councilmen Laybourn and Segrave about once a month. It is a time to catch up and talk about what is going on in the city. I really look forward to these opportunities, but this time I came away with a to-do list with 19 items to follow up on. Whew!
The Hynds building was on the schedule again this week. I joined a Zoom meeting with the folks that were thinking about building a boutique hotel in the Hynds/Hole location. The hotel franchisers have decided the walk from the parking garage to the site is too long for the hotel to be successful. Good news is the team has pivoted to using the Hynds as a mixed use, with parking in the hole and housing being built vertically above. After 40 years of the Hynds being empty, and the hole vacant for 19 years now, we need to find a partner to make this project happen.
Saturday morning, Judy and I took part in the Disability Awareness Walk held in Frontier Mall. I read a proclamation declaring March as Disability Awareness Month. Following that, we walked a lap around the mall. There were around 100 folks in attendance with many having disabilities. It was a blast getting to meet them. Three of our firefighters showed up to walk in full bunker gear, carrying fire hose. They were awesome in working with the walkers. I learned from the Mayor’s Council for People with Disabilities that a full 19 percent of Cheyenne residents have some kind of disability. It is important that we continue to make progress on making our city accessible to everyone.
I continue to be pleased by the way the County and City find ways to work together. Molly Bennett is the Public Works Director for the county, and she invited the city team to meet and discuss upcoming Sixth Penny road projects. She wanted to make sure their timeline met with our economic development efforts and city plans. I love the fun rivalry between the commissioners and our governing body and appreciate their willingness to work for the benefit of our constituents.
We had our longest city council meeting on Monday night. We had an eight-page agenda, and a couple of big items that took time to work our way through. The big highlights were the passage of the bias crime ordinance, renewal of liquor licenses, the reconsideration of a plat that had failed last meeting, and a vote to not transfer the liquor license from Dell Range Liquors to King Soopers. What I really appreciate is the way the council and folks testifying have kept the proceedings civil and professional. It is much appreciated.
The Hitching Post property is now level, and almost ready for development. I met with the new owner of the property, and he gave me an update on what to expect and the timeline. I am excited to see a new generation of hotels break ground this summer, a potential steak house and coffee shop, and later some multi-family housing. Cheyenne is blessed to have many entrepreneurs that are investing in the success of our community. Robert and his team are special as they have taken a blighted area and are bringing it back to life.
F.E. Warren Air Force Base has been our partner since 1867. A group from the base made an appointment to get an early start on the Defense Community Infrastructure Program. This is a grant from the military to local communities to help build facilities that the city needs and would benefit the members of the military. We have applied the past two years and were not successful, but the base team is excited to try again and so am I. We will be working on finding the prefect project that will hopefully get approval this time.
The Southeast Wyoming Builder’s Association is the organization that represents the folks who build our community, brick by brick and board by board. They are responsible for building the housing our city desperately needs, and the commercial and industrial projects that we need to diversify our economy. I joined our Chief Building Official, Bruce Trembath, and our team of inspectors to answer their questions. The building department has a significant impact on the building trades in Cheyenne. These impacts can be either good or bad. I think the purpose of the meeting was to make sure we are working together, and to make sure we are on track for a good impact. The small businesses represented in the room have worked for generations building Cheyenne and I appreciated the opportunity to hear their thoughts.
I had lunch with another councilman, this time Dr. Rinne. I should have followed him and ate healthy, but I ate a whole chicken fried steak and spent the rest of the day a bit miserable. Dr. Rinne has been on the city council for over 20 years, and it is good to have his experience to bounce thoughts off of and make sure things are heading in the right direction. His counsel and friendship are appreciated.
Another 7:00 a.m. LEADS board meeting, sigh! I think one of the best parts is the community reports. The city, county commission, joint powers board, LCCC, hospital, airport, DDA, Visit Cheyenne, business council, school districts, and eastern Laramie County all share what is going on in their areas. We get a chance to ask questions and look for ways to work together. I find it invaluable and very interesting.
I was a bit shocked, but then not surprised, to find we have covenants on neighborhoods in Cheyenne that were designed to prevent people of color from being able to buy a home. We have up to 35 subdivisions with many more filings that contain this racist language. Since 1949 the covenants have been unenforceable. Senate File 91 passed in 2021, gives homeowners the ability to remove the covenants from their property very easily and for free. I met with a team that is working to develop a website with a map of areas that have the language and to make the form available for those who want to use it. I think every community has these kinds of covenants from back in the day. I appreciate the legislature for making it easy in Wyoming to make them go away.
For the second time since I have been mayor, I have attended the police department awards ceremony. This year really showed the great work our officers, civilians, and volunteers do to protect our community. Awards were given for marksmanship, top shot, fitness, longevity, commendations, lifesaving, and unit citations for exemplary teamwork. The Chief’s award was given to Detective Fernandez, Meritorious Service to Detective Baca, Officers Mims and Ehlman. The Medal of Valor to Officers Reiber and Lewis, volunteer of the year to Charles Cruff who gave over 1,600 hours to the department, civilian of the year to CSO Chris McClean, specialty officer of the year to Detective Sanne, and officer of the year to Lisa Koeppel. I am so proud of our department and enjoyed celebrating their successes.
If you have a question for me, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll continue to answer them in my following Mayor’s Minute column.