It has been another busy week talking about animals and our contract with the Cheyenne Animal Shelter. I appreciate the passionate letters and emails from the folks in our community who are truly concerned about animal welfare. I wanted to share some good news; the shelter’s board of directors voted Wednesday night to accept the city’s offer of a three-year contract for sheltering services. I look forward to meeting with the shelter’s director in the coming weeks to finalize the details. I’m happy we reached an agreement to continue our 50-year partnership.
In previous columns, I shared the city’s concern about future connections to the Colorado River drainage. Currently, Cheyenne receives 70 percent of its drinking water from this drainage, which has been stressed by a multi-decade drought. Our Board of Public Utilities (BOPU) has been working to find additional water resources to ensure Cheyenne’s ability to grow in the future. I have been in these meetings and have shared that 1 in 7 people living in Wyoming get their water from our BOPU. Our team is working hard to avert a potential water crisis in the future.
Within the past year, the COMEA Shelter took possession of the Stagecoach Motel. The city and county purchased this property to add to the shelter’s ability to serve the homeless population in Cheyenne. We had breakfast at the shelter this week and got the opportunity to meet with the Federal Home Loan Bank to discuss a grant that could help the shelter finish remodeling the motel and get more homeless folks into a safe place to live. Jonah Bank is sponsoring this grant request, and I’m hopeful they will be successful. By the way, breakfast was amazing.
The city decided to become self-insured for our health insurance plan this past year. Our team met this week to review our performance. The good news is our insurance program is right on track and doing well. However, I’m interested in finding more ways to help our employee population get healthier, and our team discussed ways to make that happen. Of course, there’s more to discuss on this topic, but I’m excited to be a part of this effort.
The legislature has adjourned, and we are now looking at the bills that were passed to see what the city needs to do to comply with state law. Some bills are exciting, like additional liquor licenses that should result in more restaurants, and some are mundane, such as making changes to our bidding rules. It is amazing how things that happen at the capitol affect city hall.
The budget season has officially started, and we are blessed to have a great team in our treasurer’s office to keep our finances on track. We met this week to look at the revenue side of the budget. Some more great news to report; our revenues are much better than last year! We are still millions of dollars short of the budget requests made by our departments and outside agencies, but last year, our beginning revenues did not even cover the existing cost of running the city. Fortunately, we won’t have to make any significant cuts, but the bad news is there is no money for new requests.
The city council added investigating solar power as one of its goals for this year. Tom Segrave is the city council member who has taken the reins on this educational process. We met with a company this week to talk about a project called “Community Solar.” It is an opportunity for people who can’t put solar panels on their property to subscribe to a community solar project. It could also help our non-profit community with its power needs. I’m excited by the possibilities, but I know we have so much more work to do before it can happen.
Times are tough for our development community, especially those that are in the business of building single-family homes. We had a developer who needed help getting a project closed. I’m proud of the folks working for the city who listened and found ways to meet the city’s requirements and still meet the developer’s timelines. With the federal government raising interest rates again this week, our development community will be under additional stress due to the high-interest rates. So many jobs are tied to the building industry. Therefore, we need to work hard to help them be successful.
A treat for me this week was a meeting with the Fort Collins mayor and Chamber of Commerce director. I enjoyed learning about what is happening to the south of us. We share some similar struggles including: housing, childcare, transportation, finances, water, and airport operations. I was surprised to learn that Fort Collins has lost some of its population over the past year. We share similar struggles with young families trying to afford housing and the cost of living. I’m excited by the new relationship and look forward to ways we can work together in the future.
One committee position that comes with my job as mayor is a spot on the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). One planning effort the team has been working on is a partnership with the Wyoming Department of Transportation, the Colorado Department of Transportation, and our MPO to study the commuting patterns of folks who work in Cheyenne but live in Colorado and vice versa. The idea would be to provide a bus system for commuters to reduce the number of cars on the road and improve the commuters’ quality of life. I’m shocked by the large number of folks who commute across state lines in both directions.
The MPO also approved the Cheyenne Transit Plan. We have a bus system that helps folks get around town. COVID-19 required a big change to our old route system. The new plan will reinstate our old route systems to try and make the routes more direct with faster travel times. In addition, we are also looking at later evening routes and providing services on Sundays. There are so many people who can and do benefit from our transit system; our goal is to make it more robust and dependable.
Thursday night County Commissioner Malm, Representative Brown, and I met with the Southeast Wyoming Builders’ Association to talk about the state of development within our city, county, and state. I really enjoyed being part of the conversation with these gentlemen. I appreciate all the work folks in this industry do to help build our community and the jobs they create. Our biggest task in the near future is creating enough housing to continue growing our economy. These guys and gals understand our vision and are working hard every day.
Wednesday evening, our police department held its annual awards ceremony. It is one of my favorite events of the year. It is great to hear of the great accomplishments of our policemen. Unfortunately, we had multiple events that evening, and I was unable to attend. I sent my Chief of Staff, Andy Worshek, in my stead, and he shared many of the award citations with me. I’m especially proud of our Officer of the Year, Chad Wellman. Our city has an incredible police department.
Thursday morning, I flew to New Hampshire to attend the change of command ceremony for the USS Cheyenne. Our namesake boat is in dry dock getting retrofitted so it can serve our country for another decade and beyond. Back in 2011, I rode in the USS Cheyenne when it was in Hawaii, and that was a blast! The tour today was hard on me. The Cheyenne has been stripped to the hull and is getting refueled and completely refurbished. She was unrecognizable as we took a tour of the boat. Nonetheless, I appreciate Torpedo Mate Chief Richardson, who took us on the tour. The boat should be ready in the fall of next year for sea trials, and I can tell you the crew is very ready to get back to sea.
If you have a question or comment for me, please, send an email to email@example.com. I’ll continue to answer your questions or concerns in the following Mayor’s Minute column.