Note: The following is a column written by Mayor Patrick Collins.
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — This past week I spent a substantial amount of time with members of the Air Force. First was the change of command for the Civil Engineer Squadron on Francis E. Warren Air Force Base. Sadly, Lt. Col. Peter Sabatowski left command, and Lt. Col. Remington Marsden will take charge. We are thrilled to have him! Remi and his family are moving from Hawaii, and we have all warned them about the winters in Cheyenne. Regardless of the weather, they are excited to join the Mighty-90.
The city has a dynamic group of employees whom I enjoy interacting with. This week, 37 employees from different departments formed a focus group to re-establish our wellness program. My goal for this group is to find a way to encourage our employees to take advantage of the many benefits we have to offer. I hope all of our employees will live a long and healthy life. Our focus group had a great discussion, and we will have many more before we settle on the final wellness program.
Our work group met again this week to pursue the idea of state parks and Cheyenne entering into an agreement to develop an attraction at the High Plains Arboretum. We learned this week about the process and time frames the state has for making this type of decision. We will keep working on the idea until we figure out what’s right for the Arboretum. I’m going to take a tour of the site next week to get a firsthand experience of the area.
The Wyoming Business Council hired Harvard University and its “Pathways to Prosperity Team” to study Wyoming’s economy and to learn why it has dragged behind the economies of neighboring states. I have met with this team a couple of times now, and we met again this week. They have traveled all over our state and have found one reoccurring theme: housing, or the lack thereof, is hurting our ability to grow our economy. I enjoyed the conversation and the statistics they shared that might help Cheyenne remove barriers and potentially grow.
LEADS held a social event to welcome three new board members. Ryan Lance, Rob Graham and Melissa Amick have agreed to serve for the next three years. What’s remarkable about LEADS is they take the membership dues and invest them in existing businesses to help them expand or help new businesses make Cheyenne and Laramie County home. The primary jobs LEADS has helped create have really moved the needle for our city. I really appreciate the new board members for their willingness to serve our community.
I have written about parking tickets many times in my weekly updates. At the beginning of the year, we had just over $200,000 in past-due parking tickets, with too many folks owing over $1,000. Today that number has grown to over $250,000. We have collected most of the larger past-due balances, but our parking division has not found parking compliance getting any better. Likewise, newly written tickets have grown past-due balances by 25%. So, what do we do? I met with our finance department earlier in the week, and a decision was made to turn the past-due balances over to our collection agency. We will also be aggressively looking for vehicles with past-due balances so they can be immobilized with a boot until the bills are paid in full. Save yourself some heartache and call Ted in our parking division to get the parking tickets paid!
We have talked about passenger rail from Denver to Cheyenne for many years. Getting this idea funded and permitted will take an epic effort, time, and treasure. I attended a meeting this week where a company named AirTrac presented what they believe will replace ground-based mass transit passenger rail systems. AirTrac uses an elevated track from which a car (reminds me of an airplane) fuselage hangs. I don’t know if that will be the ideal way to travel from Cheyenne to Denver, but it was a fascinating presentation. Truth be told, I don’t care how it happens. We just need mass transit to avoid the I-25 gridlock.
The Committee of the Whole met Wednesday to consider the 2024 budget for the first time. It passed unanimously with a couple of additions made by the city council. They added $128,000 to the proposed budget to increase the safety of our firefighters. The money added will be used for a Vehicle Exhaust Removal System, which will keep the firefighters from breathing the exhaust from the fire engines running in the bays. Additionally, Councilman Laybourn added $50,000 to help with nuisance abatement. It is surprising how many properties our team has to clean up every month. He also proposed an additional $127,280 to help our parks department with deferred maintenance on their parking lots. The last addition was to add $61,000 per ward for the councilmembers to address ward concerns. Our new budget starts July 1.
The crew from Community Action of Laramie County came by to talk about their need for a larger facility to meet the needs of the folks they serve. The lack of space has kept them from being able to add programs to serve the less fortunate and help individuals be self-sufficient. For me, the best part of the meeting was the discussion on opioid abuse. They have a program using proven pharmaceuticals to help people get off and stay off opioids. I’m excited to see them succeed in this endeavor.
I think when visitors come to Cheyenne or any part of Wyoming, they hope to experience a bit of the West. I’m unsure if we deliver on what they envision. The idea was raised of doing a cattle drive for tourists downtown, similar to what Fort Worth does. It sounds crazy, but I love it. I have no idea if it will happen, but it was a fun conversation.
The first Mission Support Group, or MSG, Warrior Day Challenge was held this week on the base. It was fun to watch. The purpose was to have fun and to help develop multi-capable airmen. Col. Dines is the commander of MSG, and I think of him as the mayor of the base. His command is comprised of over 1,200 airmen that provide much of the support for the mission. Childcare, food service, recreation, engineering, you name it, they do it. The day started with three teams made up of ten folks doing a 2.3-mile run with a heavy rucksack. I was very happy to be an observer and not a participant. Then they did a challenge for each area MSG is responsible for. It was a blast to watch the competition. The team from the Civil Engineering Squadron won the day. The hope is the contest will be picked up by other bases and a Global Strike championship can happen in the future. I’m proud to be a part of MSG!
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.