Mayor’s Minute from Mayor Patrick Collins – October 28
This past week has been dominated by one-on-one meetings with our department directors. I really enjoyed the experience. It is an opportunity to ask what they are most proud of, what they wish they would have done better, what part of their job they would like to get rid of, and their goals for our next two years together. I love our team and the enthusiasm they bring to the job and our community.
Our governing body met with the Fire Union to open the contract, fix a clause that we determined was against labor laws, and considered changing the schedule our firefighters currently work. The meeting only lasted 17 minutes. I appreciate everyone who worked so hard to make this negotiation easy. Chief Kopper and the union members have really invested in improving the relationship with the city and it shows.
A year ago, Visit Cheyenne agreed to an MOU with the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to host their agency inside their building. It has solidified the DDA’s operations and ensured that great events will continue downtown. As with most new adventures, there is work to do to perfect the union, but I really appreciate Domenic, Haylee, and Wendy for their leadership. We met to talk about how the first year has gone and to look at what needs to be done to make the relationship work in the future.
At our City Council meeting on Monday night, we approved an outside user agreement for a potential gold mine that would be located near Crystal Reservoir. We spent a good hour taking testimony from those in favor and opposed to the idea. What I am most thankful for is the respectful way the discussion occurred. I really enjoy these kinds of discussions and find myself learning in the process. The gold mine will bring good quality jobs to the county and needed revenue for the city, county, and state. The best part is the water use is temporary. The city will get the water back after 15 years.
Cheyenne Frontier Days (CFD) has been a staple of our community for 126 years now. Keeping a great visitor experience is something CFD has been investing in for years. You can see their investments all over the park. Customer parking has been on all our minds for a while now. One parking solution could be using the abandoned golf course on the other side of I-25 and building a pedestrian bridge to get folks from their car directly to Frontier Park. We met this week to discuss the potential, and what steps we need to take to make it happen. Keeping CFD relevant today and in the future is critical to our tourism efforts.
We talk a lot about economic development. Our efforts to diversify our economy, provide good jobs, and protect our community from economic downturns are goals of mine. Project Cosmo (code name) is a potential new data center that is looking at a site here in Cheyenne. I had lunch with the site selector team this week. While this is not a done deal by any means, we are making progress. It was great to hear how well our staff has been helping the team through their processes. Fingers crossed; we will get them to a “yes,” one day soon! Another piece of good news, they are planning to use a system for cooling that does not use water. LEADS has been working with Cosmo for over five years now.
I keep hearing how the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has programs to help communities with economic development, affordable housing, and so many other areas of community development/need. I met with their team to see how we might be able to partner. Bad news: they only work with rural communities under 50,000 in population. The good news, they will work to find us federal partners who do work with cities our size. I did learn that the USDA is a great resource for residents who live in the county and our small cities.
Tuesday evening, Judy and I went to a reception for folks who work in the restaurant, hospitality, and tourism industry; mainly those who work in the front—directly with our residents and visitors. It was so fun to talk with these professionals who are truly our frontline ambassadors. I wanted to attend to thank them for all they do. I was fascinated to learn that we had 1.97 million overnight visitors in our hotels last year and they spent $285 million; they paid $16.8 million in state and local taxes, and without the tourist contribution we would have to pay an additional $678 more in taxes, per person. The travel industry is equal to our third largest single business. Thank you, Visit Cheyenne, for all you do to make this happen.
I love how much I get to learn in my position as mayor. I attended the Rotary Club of Cheyenne’s luncheon to read a proclamation on World Polio Day. Since 1985, the Rotary Club has been working to eradicate polio. Since that time, they have partnered with government and philanthropists to see a 99.9% decrease in polio cases. They have raised billions of dollars that have been leveraged many times over. My generation has never worried about polio due to the vaccine but talking with my dad it was a constant worry for parents back in the day. Thank you, Rotary, for this amazing effort and for the invite to be part of your special day.
We have a big solar farm planned for Laramie County. We received a letter advising that the company would be working through the industrial siting process. This is where the company pays the local government to help mitigate the impacts created during construction and operations. That bit of information was another first for me and most of our team. Luckily, Commissioner Lovett has knowledge of this from his past work life. Since we met, I have had a much better understanding of the process and how the city and county can work together to answer the company’s request. This 150-megawatt project will only add one full-time permanent job, but also the much-needed electrical capacity for our local utility.
It was our turn to host the Laramie County elected official’s quarterly dinner. We held the dinner at the Botanic Gardens, and the team there were great hosts. I appreciated the opportunity to see the other elected officials and take the time to catch up with them.
Senator Lummis sponsored a bill in the Senate to name one of our federal buildings after Louisa Swain. Louisa is famous for being the first woman in the United States and maybe the world to vote in a general election, when she cast her ballot on September 6, 1870. In 1869, the territorial legislature passed the woman’s suffrage bill granting women in the territory the right to vote, setting up Louisa’s famous effort. I was honored to attend the dedication of the building and proud of the many firsts in Wyoming’s history. I know we have much to do to earn the “equality state” motto, but it is fun to celebrate our successes.
We closed on our last property needed to build our new fire station Thursday evening. We thought this was going to be the easiest property, but it ended up being the most complicated. I have so many folks to thank. First of thanks go to John Edwards, who owned the new piece of property we needed and who showed unbelievable patience while we worked through the complications. Second, the employees of the Wyoming Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration who worked to release our old fire station so we could trade the land. A special thanks go to our fire chief and his team, who have dedicated so much time and effort to get these fire stations under construction, and our city team along with First American Title for their help in getting everything needed to close. A year from now we should be cutting ribbons on three new fire stations, and so it’s important for me to especially thank our voters. I realized none of this would be possible without the support of our voters approving the necessary funds to finance the construction.
In speaking of voting, I would like to bring your attention to Constitutional Amendment A which is on the ballot this year. This amendment allows local governments to invest excess funds in equities like the state does; giving them more dollars for necessary governmental operations and projects. One thing to keep in mind, if you leave the ballot item blank, state law counts it as a no. I ask you to look into the issue and make a choice.
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.