NOTE: The following is a column written by Mayor Patrick Collins.
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — This past weekend was one of the best for Judy and me. Our oldest son Sean earned his doctorate in English at the University of Utah, and our whole family met in Salt Lake City for his graduation. Watching him get his Ph.D. was very emotional for this dad. I could not be prouder. Dr. Collins tells me, the only thing he can fix is a broken sentence. Ha-ha! What a great weekend for this mom and dad.
The Animal Shelter contract is still progressing. We met with the executive director again this week. The city and shelter faced some tough challenges earlier this year. However, it’s been great meeting and working together to get a reasonable contract approved. Our goal is to get the contract signed by the end of June. I believe we will make that happen.
Tyler Harrison works for Congresswoman Hageman, and he has been a constant presence in our office. I appreciate the congresswoman and her team for their willingness to help our city. I’m keeping them updated on our housing and water issues. We know it will take everyone working together to solve these challenges.
The city is blessed to have a robust water and sewer system. We have had requests from folks living or working in areas outside our city boundaries who want one or both of our municipal services to support their housing or commercial purposes. We have created a working group to look at whether providing these services is good for the city and our community at large. We have met several times and are close to sharing what we have learned. It is important that we go through this process to make these important decisions.
It was fun to thank two employees for 85 years of service to the City of Cheyenne this week. Wendy Kinkade has worked for the city for 45 years. She started as a meter maid back when we had coin-operated parking meters. I see her almost every day as she works in the City Clerk’s Office and brings me documents to sign. Her knowledge of liquor laws is invaluable to our team. She remembers moving into our city building when it was newly built. Today, it needs renovation. Wendy has provided exceptional service to our city for a very long time, and we hope to continue having her around.
Tom Coonts has worked in our street and alley division for 40 years. He is one of the last members of the hanger crew, those who used to work out of an old hanger at the airport. I loved his story about the old days when the equipment did not have air conditioning, so he had to put a block of ice in front of a fan to try to keep cool. Wow, talk about innovation! Tom and his team helped set up security when President George Bush came to town to celebrate our 100th anniversary as a state. Tom shared that was one of his proudest moments as a member of the city. Both Wendy and Tom have now worked for seven different mayors, and I wanted them to know how appreciative we are of their services to our city.
Some may think differently, but my job is not all Skittles and rainbows. One of my Tuesday meetings was very sobering. Trisha and Marianne from Stride came by to share very disappointing news… Stride is a Child Development Center, or CDC, that works with special education kids from infancy to 5 years old. I learned that Stride will be closing their doors in four years. They have been getting state funding of $8,600 per student since 2010. However, it costs Stride $16,000 per student to provide the services each child needs, yet their funding has not changed in 13 years. They have been burning through their reserves and only have a few years left. Stride serves 500 kids a year, which means losing that service would be catastrophic to the families who need their services. I learned the 12 child development centers in the state are all facing similar financial situations. It is a federal requirement for states to provide these services if the CDCs go away. But how will we meet the needs and the requirements? Unfortunately, we are running out of time to find the answer.
The Industrial Siting Council is charged with permitting very large industrial developments and helping local governments with funding to pay for the impacts the construction projects will cause. I testified before the council to ask for the funding needed to help with the impact that will come with the new gold mine projected to be built near Crystal Reservoir. I find these processes very interesting. The city was awarded $726,000 for the 18-month of constructional impact. I hear we should expect many more of these hearings as more large projects are coming to Cheyenne and Laramie County.
During our director’s meeting, I learned we have had 14 dogs hit and killed by cars this past week. We also had a few that were on leashes in their yards that attempted to jump over fences and accidentally hung themselves. I bring this to your attention with the hope that dog owners will take extra precautions to ensure their furry companions are safe.
I enjoy my meetings with Margaret Crespo, the school district’s superintendent. We have so many areas where the city and district work together. The city does not have gyms to run our sports programs; the school district does not have golf courses or softball fields for their varsity sports programs. Historically, we have worked so well trading the use of our facilities. Nevertheless, when staff changes, sometimes these historic agreements get lost. Margaret and I are working together to make sure we don’t lose such important partnerships in the future. Both our facilities are paid for by the taxpayers of our communities. So, we must use those dollars to the maximum benefit of those paying the bill.
I attended the funeral of Bert Budd on Wednesday. Bert was the father of a great friend of mine, and his passing is a great loss to our city. You see, Bert taught elementary physical education for 40 years and mentored a lot of coaches. He taught them to love working with young athletes, and he helped build our elementary school athletic program, which gave hundreds of kids the opportunity to compete each year. His summers were spent teaching, swimming and running track meets. He was a difference-maker! I joined other members of our community on Wednesday to pay my respects and to say thank you for a life well lived.
This weekend is our time to celebrate the mothers in our community. I want to wish all the mothers a happy Mother’s Day!
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.