NOTE: The following is a column written weekly by Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins.
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — This has been one tough week for your mayor. I have been so healthy since being sworn into office. Days of high fever and coughing have caused me to miss so many commitments. I missed Miss Stella’s kindergarten graduation. Her mom works in our office, and I am so disappointed to miss the big day. I have a son that graduated from Stride, and it killed me to miss greeting the Stride Ride folks and thanking them for all they do for the youth of Cheyenne. Girls State was in town, and I missed the privilege of welcoming them to our community. Another big miss was the Maury Brown Youth Fishing Day. He hosted 400 kids at his lake and provided them with free rods, tackle boxes, lunch, and a great day learning how to fish. Thank goodness for Zoom and the ability to meet remotely: I was able to make many of the city meetings and commitments. Sickness and health are the vow we took, and Judy sure lived up to her part. Thanks, honey.
Charles Bloom is our City Planner. We are working on so many different projects these days. We met to catch up on the progress of a couple of them. First is the Belvoir Ranch and how we will access the trailhead we hope to build. One of our new fire station locations is owned by the city. It has a Land and Water Conservation Grant restriction that limits the property to outdoor recreation. If you want to use it for another purpose, you have to work with government to incumber new properties. We discussed that process and how to proceed. Last, we talked about the city council goal of annexing county pockets surrounded by the city. It is important to make sure it does not hurt the residents inside the pockets, and we talked about creating a model ordinance we could use to show residents to help with the fear this action could cause. Once we are ready, we will make sure to have a robust public process to answer questions and concerns.
We hosted a conference call with a team from Casper. They wanted to understand how we handle Animal Control and how our partnership with the Animal Shelter works. We took over the control function in September 2021, and in that time have certified our employees to the national standards and have worked hard to be a good partner with the shelter. The folks from Casper were very interested in our public/private partnership. We offered to host them and make the introduction to the team at the Cheyenne Animal Shelter.
City staff charged with managing the Tax Increment Financing for the Hitching Post’s Urban Renewal Authority met with the County Attorney, County Assessor, and County Treasurer. As we have discussed, the state laws are not very specific on how the transfer of property tax money from the state to the city should happen. While I know this is very frustrating for the county team, I appreciate their working so hard to find a way forward. The URA is the ultimate private/public partnership we have used to clean up the old Hitch site. Things that seem so simple are never simple. Great news is the site is clean and new development is scheduled to start this summer.
I have shared with you the pride I have in our staff. Sometimes we have disagreements or see things differently. The Municipal Court is one area that has caused me some frustration. The way our court operates has had to change due to Supreme Court decisions and other best practice measures. This has caused court costs to rise quickly. When budgets like ours are tight, that is a frustration for me. We met again to help me understand the requirements placed on the court. I’m not sure I will ever really understand why it costs so much, but what we don’t want is the Justice Department here dictating the rules.
One part of my job is to meet with folks who are not happy with the city. I had one such meeting this week with a gentleman who had a list of grievances. I normally find that most grievances come from a misunderstanding or miscommunication. In this case, I have some research to do. He is frustrated that we don’t enforce laws the way he would like, we are not consistent with the way we do things, and he just does not feel heard. It started off tough, but at the end I understood his position. Now I need to meet with staff and understand if it is a misunderstanding, miscommunication, or something we just need to do better. I’m on it.
Patty Walters runs our local YMCA. She and her team have been working with the Celadon Partners group to see if an upgrade to the facility is possible. Celadon does this by leveraging affordable housing projects combined with other public amenities. With our affordable housing issues, I was pleased to be invited to learn a different strategy to see affordable housing built. I left not completely understanding all the nuances, but with the knowledge that they can help with our housing opportunities. I got permission to call and further the education. I plan to ask them to get excited about Cheyenne and to make a commitment to invest here.
Our budget is one vote from being complete. The Committee of the Whole voted to recommend the budget to the Governing Body next Monday. I could feel the apprehension from the members about the economy and how it could negatively affect the revenues next year. I think they are right; the risk is there. Treasurer Lockman and I were very conservative on our revenue projections, so we are cautiously optimistic our budget will survive next year’s uncertainty.
Wednesday through Friday was spent in Laramie at the Wyoming Association of Municipalities summer conference. This is our opportunity to network with other Wyoming cities and towns, and to look for ways to strengthen our relationships. One priority is a constitutional amendment we will get to vote on this fall. Cities, towns, and counties are limited on how they can invest reserve dollars. The hope is the voters will approve a change to allow our reserves to be invested like our State Treasurer. No crypto, but a better return to help our budgets and projects. Watch for Amendment A this fall.
Thursday was busy at WAM. We started the day with a seminar from Ben Cort on marijuana. I learned that weed of the ‘60s and ‘70s had THC levels of 0.2 to 0.5 percent. Today, edibles have THC levels above 60 percent. The effects and impacts are wildly different. It was interesting to hear his suggestions. We listened to a panel discussion on housing issues. Proud that Brenda Birkle of our Cheyenne Housing Task Force was one of the speakers. I learned housing is a big concern in every Wyoming community. Last was a panel discussion with five legislators including our Senator Nethercott and Representative Nicholas. They gave us advice on how to get our priorities through the legislature. The night ended on a high note with our Capitol Avenue Bronze Project receiving the Community Hero Award. I was proud to nominate and give the award to Harvey Deselms and Nathaniel Trelease. Forty-nine statutes and $735,000 donated to make Cheyenne a more beautiful place to live.