The Mayor’s Minute from Mayor Patrick Collins

This was a great holiday weekend for the Collins family. Thursday, Judy and I were joined by our two sons at the Colorado Avalanche hockey game against the New York Rangers. We met up with our Ranger friends and their families to watch an amazingly fun hockey game. I got a bunch of bad mouth when my Avs were beat in overtime by Steve and Matt who are lifelong fans of the Rangers. I am getting tired of saying we will get you next year, but we will!

I had a new experience as we went to the Derby Club and went through the challenge of an escape room. I had no idea what to expect, but the best I can describe it is a life size participation puzzle. I was lost at first but I soon caught on. We solved it with 5 minutes to spare. I am now looking forward to my next escape room experience.

It was great having a house full on Easter Sunday for the comradery and to share a meal. I love to cook and the holidays make cooking extra special. The only downside was my card playing was not to my liking. I hate to lose to my little card shark sister. She has my number.

This week was dominated by budget meetings with department heads. I love these hour-long opportunities to discuss their budget priorities and to spend the remaining time to be educated on what we need to plan for the long term. Getting this look into the future really helps me plan and also look for opportunities that might become available to solve these long-term needs. I am surprised how often a grant or other kind of solution presents itself.

We started with Jay Sullivan from Youth Alternatives. This organization impacts over 1,000 individuals and their families each year. They started over 50 years ago and it is humbling when you consider the number of kids whose life trajectories have been positively affected by their employees and the services they provide. I think the biggest challenge they face is planning when the majority of their funding comes from grants where funding levels vary from year to year.

Next conversation came with Robin Lockman, our Treasurer. I can share with you this whole budget process would be impossible without Robin’s skills and patience with me. She is backed up by an amazing team that helps prepare all the needed numbers for me to work the budget. I know the department’s challenge right now is getting our balanced budget done while managing a computer conversion in the department. Either one of these would be a challenge but doing them simultaneously is a huge task. The budget must be passed by the city council by the end of June and computer conversion must be done at the same time. Whew!

Human Resources was next and Darrin Hass runs that department. We have over 550 full-time employees and currently have around 10 open positions. Having almost full employment is amazing. Our big challenge is creating a new wellness program that helps maximize our employee health, providing training opportunities to help our employees grow in their lives and jobs, and filling those few hard to find positions consistently.

Our City Clerk, Kris Jones, is the keeper of all the city records and manages our city council agendas. I know Kris’ biggest challenge is managing the public record requests her office is charged with handling. We don’t mind the resident who has a legitimate request, but we are getting too many data companies who request information that takes so many hours to collect and they sell to their customers. It seems unfair to me that these data mining requests are stealing this much staff time.

Chief Francisco and our Police Department made the biggest request for new resources. We have been working on building up the number of sworn officers in each budget as our city has grown and we need the manpower. The biggest challenge to the department is since the George Floyd incident, few people are seeking a career in law enforcement. Our department should be fully staffed in the next few weeks and we have a few more folks in the hiring process so the immediate future looks good. More folks mean more specialty teams can be deployed to fight the crime statistics we all wish were better.

Chief Kopper from our Fire Department is feeling exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. Getting our three new fire stations constructed and online over the past year has definitely brought out both emotions. I learned the biggest challenge going forward is keeping our fleet of fire engines up to date. The lead time for new orders is now four years and that is just too long to effectively manage the fleet while maintaining the cash flow to pay for them. I again want to thank the voters for their support of all our public safety requests.

Jason Sanchez heads up our Community Recreation and Events division. It is made up of 12 diverse agencies that makes this division a challenge. For our city, the biggest challenge is finding a funding source for the quality-of-life recreation facilities our residents want, especially the indoor recreation facilities. We have not had success using the 6th Penny sales tax to fund these requests, so we are working hard to find ways to not only build new facilities but keep our existing ones looking good. The CRE team is so excited about our new Beast gym facility and we are looking forward to the gymnastics building that should open around the new year. Long-term water issues will also be a challenge as our departments look to new water-wise management strategies.

Tom Cobb runs the Engineering Department. Every development and new project touch this department. Last year we set a record with just over $6 million in road projects. This year they are scheduled to manage around $16 million in road projects. The challenge is if we are going to keep up this pace – and we sure need to – we will need more engineers to manage the process. I apologize for the number of cone zones you will encounter this summer, but our roads need the love.

Our Public Works director, Vicki Nemecek, is our longest tenured director. She runs another complex department from Street and Alley (snow plows), Fleet Maintenance, Building Maintenance, Sanitation, Recycling, Compost, and Traffic. Our biggest challenge is increasing the size of our facilities as our city grows and the size of our vehicle fleet does not fit in our garages. LCCC has a new CDL training program that has made a huge difference in hiring drivers in these divisions.

Maybe our most diverse and challenging department just might be Compliance. Animal Control, Building and Inspectors, IT, Risk Management, Nuisance, and cleaning up after the homeless population. Eric Fountain manages this diverse group with agility and grace. I think our biggest challenge is keeping up with the growth of nuisance issues and homelessness. Our team works so hard and I would like to ask us all to please keep your weeds trimmed and garbage cleaned up this summer. Please!

It was a busy week on top of the budget discussions. I met with Ben Taylor from Lincoln Ave Capital on how they successfully build affordable housing in other states using a model not currently used in Wyoming. Greg Hancock from the Cheyenne Housing Authority educated me and a couple of council members on how they provide affordable rentals and their “Welcome Home Wyoming” program where they provide down payment assistance to folks in the 125th percentile AMI and down. They have helped 408 Cheyenne families buy a home. I also got to catch up with the Cosmo team that is building an 800,000-square-foot data center starting this summer. Last the DDA held an open house to let their consultant share ideas and seek input on their plan of development for our downtown. I loved much of what I saw.

I am at the kitchen table getting ready to cut $2.5 million from the budget requests. Sigh! I need to bring a balanced budget to our Treasurer Friday afternoon.