NOTE: The following is a column written weekly by Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins.
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — I shared with you that the Wyoming Association of Municipalities was here in Cheyenne last week. A highlight of the week for me was the early morning breakfast with the city council from Casper. We started doing this a year ago and it is fun comparing processes and goals in Wyoming’s two largest cities. For me personally it is a chance to talk with the Casper city manager, Cartier Napier. He is one person in the state who understands what I do and vice versa. I love our conversations.
Saturday found Judy and me at St. Mary’s Cathedral for the wedding of Michael Skinner to Emily Olipane. Michael worked in the mayor’s office as our public information officer for my first two years. Emily is a Captain in the Air Force. What a beautiful ceremony. The heavy snow made it feel so romantic. The reception was held at the historic UP Depot. Judy and I wish them a great honeymoon and a long and happy life together.
I spent some time with staff working on the process for the city to apply for $3.8 million of American Rescue Plan Act grant money. There is a very short application deadline of Feb. 6 and it requires a resolution be passed by the city council. Our next scheduled city council meeting is Feb. 13. One grant would provide $1.8 million for a drainage project, and the other would provide $2.1 million for a Board of Public Utilities project. We figured out a plan to do a special meeting of the governing body on Monday during the finance committee meeting. Fingers crossed we are successful and the grants are awarded to our projects.
The venerable Minute Man III missile system came online in the early 1970s and was to last 10 years. Over 50 years later it is still on alert. In the next few years, we will see the new Sentinel Missile replacement come online first here at F.E. Warren AFB in Cheyenne. We have a working group of the mayors of Great Falls, Montana; and Minot, North Dakota. Once the missile upgrade is complete in Cheyenne, Great Falls will be next, followed by Minot. Dale Steenbergen from our Chamber of Commerce helped inform the mayors what to expect and how to get prepared. We will share our experiences to hopefully benefit those that follow.
We made the decision to self-insure our employees for their health insurance. We have a great partner in NOVO Benefits, which has helped educate our health insurance committee on best practices. They came in this week with a proposal that will help our program save money and provide better benefits for our employees. I for one feel very fortunate to have such great partners. I go to a lot of meetings; this one was very productive.
HB287 is an effort by the state to add revenue that will help fund K–12 schools in our state. It would allow a Vegas-style class 3 casino in Laramie County and Uinta County. The thought is the locations would bring folks from the front range of Colorado and Salt Lake City area to spend money. The projections are 85% of the revenues would come from outside Wyoming. I spent a couple hours listening to the testimony and I appreciate what the legislation is trying to do. The problem is, we don’t know what the social consequences might be, and I am afraid it could actually hurt Cheyenne’s finances by hurting our existing Historic Horse Racing businesses. I don’t know if this bill will survive this legislative session, but if it doesn’t, we will see it again in the future. Time for me to study the benefits and consequences of Vegas-style gambling.
Our Civic Center is more than 50 years old. Some of our staff came in with a plan to upgrade the lighting system with a much more energy-efficient system. Our current system does not have a backup system in case of a power loss for areas like stairwells and other public areas. I look forward to helping improve the visitor experience, improving efficiency and making it safer. The next step is approval of the city council.
Project Cosmo is a potential new data center that would be located in the new High Plains Business Park south of College Drive and West of the South Greeley Highway. We have been working with the company for over five years now. This week we met in person with representatives of the company. We are so close to getting this project to the finish line. Cheyenne has become a destination for data centers. The fiber-optic backbone running along I-80 combined with our cool temperatures, low humidity and lower operating costs make us a great choice. LEADS has found that demand for Cheyenne in the data center arena is growing and we hope to see more successes in the future.
I participated in the Leadership Cheyenne program in 1997. I thought I knew all about our community, but after nine months of listening and learning I found out so much more. It was an amazing experience. This week I was blessed to speak with this year’s class. What a great group. I know they will walk away at the end of their time together with a better understanding of all aspects of our community. I really appreciate the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce for the years and effort they have put on this program.
Habitat for Humanity has been building affordable housing with its partner owners for so many years now. Leaning Tree Homes donated a parcel of land that would fit up to 17 new affordable homes along Storey Boulevard. The thing that has kept it from happening for the past couple of years is the need for a sewer line. I spoke with a team from Habitat on the plans for the area and a possible funding source to install the sewer line. I was hoping to learn that if we could find a way to sewer the area, would they commit to build the housing. I got a resounding yes! I plan on making a request to the city council to invest some money earmarked for helping low-income families on this project.
Last meeting of the week was with the Wyoming Business Council. We have a few great projects I hope to see happen in our downtown and wanted to discuss if there was any way the Business Council could help bring them to fruition. The Hynds/Hole project and a large downtown hotel were two of the projects I really want to see happen before my time as mayor is done. I appreciate the council for listening and for the ideas to help in our success.
I am thankful for the warm weather coming our way and hope it will melt some of the snow and ice. Be safe and enjoy your weekend.
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.