NOTE: The following is a column written weekly from Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins.
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Mother’s Day was a big success at our house, with our son from Utah surprising his mom with a visit. It was great to have both our sons home with their better halves. We did not do much, but having a full house was a blast. Being an empty nester is too dang quiet.
I received feedback this week that my illustration of the tax dollars required to pay our firefighters was perceived as a dig against our firefighters. My illustration was meant to show the challenges we face with revenue in the city. I love our firefighters and I firmly believe that they deserve every dollar we pay them. I apologize that I did not communicate my intent clearly.
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This past week has been all about the budget. Our Treasurer, Robin Lockman, and I presented the mayor’s proposed budget last week. Since that time, we have spent every lunch hour with our departments sharing their budgets with the city council. It is great to watch our department directors share department highlights and then discuss the budget for our next fiscal year that starts on July 1st, 2022. I am proud of our team and the way they have prepared their budgets, and how they have shared their visions to our city council.
I was invited to a meeting at the Historic Depot to meet with a couple of folks from the Union Pacific Railroad. We discussed the 15th Street railroad experience plans and how we could partner to make it happen. I appreciate their willingness to meet and look for ways we might be able to work together. The 15th Street project will be an amazing tourist attraction and I look forward to seeing the first phase completed.
When I was elected to office, one of the first goals I shared with our staff was my desire to upgrade our computer software. The COVID pandemic showed us that our computer software does not allow our residents to do business with us online to the extent it should. We have spent the intervening months looking at our needs and options to upgrade. The answer appears to be a company called OpenGov. I met with one of the founders to discuss our needs and his company’s ability to meet them. I was impressed by his honesty of their strengths and weaknesses. We will be having a council work session in a couple of weeks to get the full OpenGov story.
The Chamber held their Military May luncheon last Friday. The highlight of the luncheon is the Military Affairs Committee giving the Cheyenne Award to the best groups from the 90th Missile Wing, Army Guard, and Air Guard. The 790th Missile Security Force Squadron, the 115th Field Artillery Brigade, and the 243rd Air Traffic Control Squadron were the well-deserved winners. The military and city have grown up together and I love how close we have become.
I received good news regarding the Hynds Building last Friday afternoon. One of the groups I have been working with is closer to making a project fit into our historic building. I am encouraged that they feel the building perfectly fits their vision and they just need to work on the historic and federal tax credits to make it work. I know we have been here before, but this one feels different.
Tacos & Tequila is a fundraiser for the Comea Shelter. Judy and I joined Councilman Segrave and his wife Ann to support our homeless shelter. A couple highlights to me were the amazing amount of money that was raised and having dinner with a man named Patrick. Patrick is homeless and living on Cheyenne’s streets. Robin convinced him to publicly share his story from being in the Navy to being homeless. I liked Patrick. He was intelligent and easy to talk to. A hip injury in the Navy caused him to use painkillers that resulted in addiction. Patrick is looking forward to the new Comea Stages Center, where folks like him can get off the streets and work on sobriety. I think he will make it.
I have watched Craig Culver advertise his restaurant on TV for years now. Monday, I got the chance to meet him at the ribbon cutting for their newest restaurant on Lincolnway. He shared that they are now in 28 states and have over 800 restaurants. I appreciate the way their project helped clean up the blighted old pizza building and upgraded the whole corner. I also have a new favorite lunch: Their fish is amazing and not just for Fridays anymore.
The city’s Historic Preservation Board is a group that works to preserve Cheyenne’s history. On Tuesday, I joined their meeting to thank them for their service to our community, and to read a proclamation declaring May as National Historic Preservation Month. Cheyenne has so many beautiful, historic buildings. I appreciate having a group that is keeping those buildings in mind.
Carter Napier is the city manager in Casper. We have been meeting on a regular basis for the past year. I look at Casper not as a competitor, but as a community we can work together with. We spent time this week working on how to address the interim topics posed by the legislature. We are going to meet with the six largest cities next week and I wanted to get a head start on the conversation.
I love the painted boots that are all over our city. While our Municipal Building was closed, I spent a few months working in an office in the depot and was amazed by the visitors who posed for pictures by the boots. We now have a new boot in town. The hospital added a boot to our collection, and we unveiled it on Wednesday afternoon. Chad Blakely, the art teacher at South High School, was commissioned to capture the hospital and the workers that have served our community for 160 years now. He did a great job.
We have all been tracking the Thomas Heights flooding issues. I met with our City Engineer, Tom Cobb, to discuss the plan to mitigate the flooding there. Gene MacDonald and Kelly Hafner are drainage engineers that have been working on the solution. They educated me on the solution and the partners we will need to recruit to permanently solve the flooding that affects our county neighbors to the east. I like the plan and will now get to work getting the team assembled. I shared with our team that we did not cause the problems, but we are responsible for fixing it. We are on it.
The Day of Giving has been a Cheyenne institution for a while now. It is a multi-day event where folks can donate to help the less fortunate in our community. The Mayor’s Youth Council volunteered on Thursday during the Youth Day. I could not believe the amount of stuff folks brought into the Kiwanis Community House as donations. Last year, the youth day saw eight tons of donations and I would be shocked if this year did not match it. Food, clothing, and personal hygiene products will make such a difference for our nonprofit agencies that benefit from the Day of Giving.