NOTE: The following is a column written weekly by Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins.
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — I love it when we have job openings and hire folks from inside the city to take the positions. This happened recently with the departure of our beloved street & alley director, Randy Hickman. Bill Gonzales has been with the department for more than 40 years and is excited to take on the responsibility; our team is in good hands. I appreciate our Public Works director for promoting in-house when the best candidate already works for us.
Lately, we have been studying outside water and sewer user agreements. These agreements would send city water and/or sewer services to county developments. Making a good decision on these agreements requires knowledge, where the folks who move to rural residential areas come into play. Tom Bass and Linda Weppner have been helping me understand these complicated transactions. We are planning on using the University of Wyoming Center for Economic Analysis to help us understand the benefits and costs of outside water and sewer user agreements. We hope to have the answers at the end of the first quarter of 2023.
Friday night was busy for your mayor. First, I attended the state convention of the Red Hat Society. I learned about the Red Hat Society when I came home and found my mom ready to go out in a goofy red hat and purple dress. She explained how the Society members get together for lunch and just have fun. The red hat and purple dress come from a poem by Jenny Joseph. The idea was to grow old in a playful manner and that is exactly what the ladies I met do. It was a blast to meet them.
For my second event of the evening, I went to the Civic Center to greet the crowd and read a proclamation declaring Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 Hispanic Heritage month. The highlight for me was Mariachi Calor, a mariachi band from New Mexico who brought this colorful music for the first time ever to our Civic Center. It was beautiful, and I wish I could have understood the words of the amazing music. Saturday, the rainy weather dampened the second day of the event, but not the spirit. My thanks to the team that put this event on. I can’t wait for next year.
Monday, we took the crew from the mayor’s office to Culver’s for lunch. A young, 16-year-old employee was killed in a car accident and three of his passengers were hurt. Culver’s donated part of the proceeds to their employee’s family and those that were injured. We wanted to help. The cod was great as usual, and the cause was worthy.
Growing and diversifying our economy is one of my goals. I met with Jimmy Bailey, who is a principal with T5 Data Centers, to learn about their goal of building a new center in Cheyenne. It was interesting to again learn how Cheyenne is the perfect place to site a data center. Our weather, altitude, lack of humidity, availability of fiber trunklines, and power are creating a real data center industry in Cheyenne. I know Black Hills Energy feels the strain created by the demand for electricity, and I am confident they will work to meet the needs.
I shared with you the large class we have this year for Mayor’s Youth Council. When they did the interviews, the students were just so good that they took more than normal. Our Municipal Judge, Ronn Jeffrey, swore the class in inside our council chambers. I appreciated his words shared with the class and his taking time to be with the class. I am psyched by this class and our upcoming time together this school year.
Charles Bloom is our planning department director. He has a great team that has worked hard on creating our Urban Renewal Authority, making changes to our Uniform Development Code to allow for more housing, and has worked proactively to make Cheyenne a better place to live, work and play. We met to discuss our current challenges including requests from our Housing Task Force, industrial siting act, day-cares, tiny homes, tree lawns, landscaping, development, and expectations from our building community. I truly appreciate our planning team and look forward to the next initiatives they will bring to the governing body.
Eric Fountain is our compliance director. His responsibilities include the building department, IT, HR, risk, and animal control. It is a challenging department, but he handles it with a smile on his face and a can-do attitude. We met and spent most of our time talking about our building department as our chief building official left at the beginning of the month. It takes time to review operations and plan the way to a better future. From my recent meetings with the building community, we discussed what they viewed as good customer service, timelines for inspections and building permits, staffing levels, and relationships between our team and the industry. Cheyenne builders are doing a great job of building homes and industry and have done so for decades. Our team understands how important the industry is and is working to make sure they thrive. It is also important to remember how valuable our building department team is to the success of the industry.
The Wyoming Association of Municipalities represents the cities and towns of Wyoming. It is our lobbying group for the state. The state is broken up into regions, and we are part of Region 1. We met this week to get updates on interim legislation that could affect cities. One big update we have talked about is liquor laws. Another big item of discussion was the upcoming vote on Constitutional Amendment A this November. The Wyoming Constitution allows the state to invest state funds in equities such as the stock of corporations, but does not allow the funds of counties, cities, and other political subdivisions to be invested in equities. My hope would be we would use the expertise of the investment team from the State Treasurer’s Office to help us invest our money as they do our state’s permanent mineral trust fund. The higher returns would give us more money to do the day-to-day activities of the city. It would not mean your mayor gets to buy shares in Game Stop, but using proven talents to safely invest our reserves in high-paying investments.
We had our usual directors’ staff meeting this week. We had guest speakers from WARM, which is our insurance company made up of cities and towns across the state. We learned the sad news that we need to do a better job of preventing accidents and losses within our departments. The WARM folks gave us ideas of things we should be doing, and we will immediately start to implement them.
I attended a lunch with a prospective new industrial business looking at Cheyenne. They would like to build one of the largest meat packing plants in North America in the Swan Ranch Business Park. It is early in the process, but the $1.1 billion facility would be built to prevent the smells normally attributed with this kind of facility and could provide up to 2,500 jobs. I will keep you updated as the project moves through the process.
I was invited by AARP to talk with a group of their members. I really enjoyed the questions and their interest in our city. I also shared with them the status of the city council goals we made last January, and one of the best treats of all from this meeting was the chocolate cupcakes!
Last but not least, I spent time in a dunk tank on Thursday to raise money for the United Way of Laramie County. I think staff enjoyed throwing balls, which resulted in me going for a swim. It was good fun for a great cause. Our public works director was deadly!
Looking forward to the Cowboy game Friday night against the Air Force Falcons. Alf and Miss Sallee will be celebrating the installation of a POW/MIA stadium chair in War Memorial Stadium. I appreciate UW and the athletic department making room for this reminder of those who have not come home yet.
If you have a question for me, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll continue to answer them in the following Mayor’s Minute column.