The Mayor’s Minute from Mayor Patrick Collins

Welcome to a very wintery edition of the Mayor’s Minute. The temperatures are going to be dangerously cold for our MLK weekend celebrations. I often think about people experiencing homelessness during these weather events and I feel so blessed that we have the Comea Shelter to protect so many during these frigid nights. This week was a busy one with meetings scheduled every evening.

Last Friday started with a meeting at WYDOT to work through an MPO project that WYDOT found to not be eligible for federal MPO funding. I appreciate the WYDOT planning team explaining the rules and why this project just did not fit the criteria for inclusion in the MPO planning schedule. The plan is an overpass on High Plains Road from I-25 east over the railroad tracks to serve the new High Plains Business Park. This 3,000-acre park will need improved access in the near future and we will need to work with our partners to find a way to design the bridge so we can build it. 

Commissioner Malm, Councilman Rinne and I were on a panel for the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce luncheon. It was an opportunity for your local governments to share what is happening and for the audience to ask questions. I always enjoy these opportunities. Housing was the one topic I was most excited to talk about. Our economy is being slowed statewide by a lack of workforce. A recent study by Harvard University’s Growth Lab showed that is due to a severe shortage of workforce housing. Your City Council has made some changes to our Unified Development Code we hope will help, but we will need some lower interest rates to really spur housing growth.

I spent all of Friday afternoon on F.E. Warren AFB. The first event was the change of command for the 20th Air Force. General Lutton turned over responsibility of the numbered Air Force to General Stacy Jo Huser. General Lutton had served in the position for over three years. Colonel Huser was our base commander from 2017 through 2019, she is now a Major General and excited to be stationed back in Cheyenne as the first woman to lead the 20th Air Force. It was great to see her and Tim at the ceremony. Welcome home ma’am!

Later that afternoon, Major General Lutton was promoted to Lt. General. I learned that Major General is the last permanent rank you can be promoted to. After that, every new rank comes with a new job. Lt. General Lutton’s new job is the Vice Commander of the Global Strike Command. His new position comes with the rank. Global Strike Command is charged with the responsibility for our nation’s intercontinental ballistic missiles and bombers – two-thirds of our nation’s nuclear triad. I want to personally thank General Lutton and Brenda for all they did for the airmen in the 20th and wish them luck in the new assignment.

Friday evening, Judy and I were invited to a reception for General Huser. It was great to be able to welcome her back home and congratulate her on this amazing milestone in her career. She was born for this new job and I hope you all get a chance to know this amazing officer.

Monday, I joined an editorial board panel at the local newspaper. The topic for this panel was housing and what can be done to help with the number of housing units available and with housing affordability. Folks from the building community, City Council, and nonprofit organizations joined the reporters and editorial board members. We all seemed to agree that work needs to be done to improve our housing situation, but there were some differences in how that should occur. I know one thing for sure, high interest rates are not helping our housing situation. I look forward to reading the editorial and their suggestions.

We started the Select Cities a couple of years ago, made up of the six largest cities in Wyoming. The mayors and city managers get together to discuss issues that are relevant to our larger cities. This meeting was to discuss the upcoming legislative session and legislation that will affect our municipalities. Big on our list is direct distribution – block funding that helps each of our governments fund essential services. We also talked about our mutual opposition to the four bills coming from the housing regulatory committee. One size does not fit all for cities and towns in our state. We also discussed the impact of the property tax bills proposed and the referendum currently gathering signatures. Property taxes don’t go to the state, but fund local schools, libraries, county fire districts, conservation districts, and local governments. We are trying to understand the impacts these property tax bills could have on our ability to provide services.

The Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee held a hearing on the plan to make the Arboretum a State Historic Site. It was a good chance to educate the committee on the history of the Arboretum and the plans going forward. The next step is a public meeting to be held on Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. in the State Museum to introduce the plan. I would encourage you all to join us to learn more about our plans. We hope the bill to create the State Historic Site will be sponsored by the committee and will be well received by the Legislature in February.

The City Council held its sixth goal setting meeting this week. We spent some time reviewing the status of our past goals and learned much progress has been made. We then looked to what we should focus on in 2024. Our new focus will include the 15th Street Railroad Experience and getting the three railcars restored and placed on 15th Street. The Pumphouse is a very old part of our city water history. Our goal is to replace the roof and secure the building until we can find a partner or purpose for the building. We purchased the Belvoir Ranch 20 years ago and we have been trying to build a trail system to open the ranch up to the public. We have a plan to do just that in 2024. We have a goal to build a community solar project to allow folks who want to use solar power but can’t have the panels to subscribe to this solar farm for green energy. The voters approved the Reed Avenue project on the 6th penny. We have been negotiating with the BNSF since 2017 and have finally reached an agreement to implement the ideas. Our goal is to build out the master plan and find additional funding sources. Last is to prepare our project list for the next 6th penny sales tax election. It is still a few years away but it takes time to develop the plans and get them shovel ready. We will try to do a better job of updating the public on our progress.

I am running out of room to share more but want you to know about a new walking group AARP is starting on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 8 a.m. in the mall. Get up and join us. We held our quarterly elected official’s dinner at the Archer Events Center. The big takeaway is suicides are down a bit, but fentanyl deaths are still a challenge. I joined the Mission Support Group on the base for the quarterly awards ceremony. Love that they take time to celebrate their high performers.

Thursday night we got a peek at the new Children’s Museum. It was brilliant. The displays are so colorful and will be a great place to take our kids and grandkids. Can’t wait to take my grandson Chels. We are hoping to see it opened to the public in July. See you there.

Please stay safe and warm this weekend.