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The Archer Complex sign is seen Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, east of Cheyenne. With help from a grant from the Cheyenne Community Public Recreation District, the Archer Complex will become home to a new playground. Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – This summer, the doors were opened at Laramie County’s new Event Center at Archer. The $9.8 million project was passed by voters on the 2017 sixth-penny sales tax ballot, and Laramie County took out a $6.3 million loan to start construction before the money had been collected.

Now, the county will be paying off that loan early, saving more than $550,000 in interest payments, thanks to the work of the Laramie County Finance Department.

“You guys have bent over backward for the taxpayers of Laramie County,” Commissioner Troy Thompson said at the Laramie County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday. “It’s saved a lot of money that we can put into those projects.”

About $4.3 million has been collected for the project from the sixth-penny sales tax, but the county has enough funding in its reserves to foot the additional $2 million to repay the loan early. The com- missioners approved the payment in a budget amendment Tuesday.

“I think it would be a wiser use of the county’s resources to pay off the loan that’s charging us 3%,” Finance Director Stanley Walker told the commissioners.

Because the money was raised from the sixth-penny sales tax, the $550,000 saved in interest must be used on the Event Center at Archer, whether that would be for additional seating in the facility or a repave of the parking lot.

Commissioner Buck Holmes echoed Thompson’s sentiment, giving his kudos to the department for “being smart enough to save us half a million in interest.”

Commissioner Linda Heath also noted that those who worked on the construction had an “eagle eye” when it came to cutting costs and making sure taxpayer money was spent effectively.

“The teamwork that went into these construction projects that we’ve completed has been phenomenal, and I’d like to extend that thank you to everyone involved,” Heath said.

Saying goodbye

At the meeting, the county commissioners also said goodbye to Chairwoman Amber Ash as she takes on the role of Downtown Development Authority executive director.

After seven years on the commission, Ash will step down from her position at the end of the month.

“It’s been an amazing journey, and we’ve accomplished so much over the time that I’ve served here,” Ash said, fighting back tears.

Looking back, Heath recalled Ash’s tenacity in going after projects and getting work done. When the Event Center at Archer was being built and there weren’t enough toilets, Ash grabbed onto the issue “like a dog with a juicy bone.”

Because of Ash’s drive, there are now 72 sanitation stations at Archer.

“We joked she was the port-a-potty guru out at the Event Center,” Heath said.

As she said goodbye, Ash mentioned a number of other projects she was proud to have touched, including securing more funding for victim services and restarting regular air service to Cheyenne.

Last September, the second annual “Run the Legend” marathon took place in Cheyenne – a project that Ash proposed, spearheaded and brought to fruition with the help of others in the county.

“I’ve had some really wild ideas – the marathon probably takes the cake – but everyone was so supportive and really came together to help push that project off the ground,” Ash said.

About Ash’s time serving the county, Thompson said she did “one hell of a job.” While Thompson congratulated the DDA for getting Ash, he said he would miss her keen eye, especially when it comes to the county budget.

“Nobody was a better budget hawk than you were,” Thompson said.

Ash will take her skills and knowledge of Cheyenne and Laramie County to her new role as DDA director, where she will work to improve the downtown area and increase development.

And while Ash looked forward to the projects she’ll be able to work on with the DDA, she also looked back, thanking her fellow commissioners for their collaboration and openness in serving the residents of Laramie County.

“Certainly, no one person is capable of pulling something off. It takes the entire team, so everything that we’ve achieved has been a team effort,” Ash said. “And I’m so incredibly grateful that I got to serve with all of you.”

Once Ash steps down, the commission will need to declare a vacancy to fill her position. Since Ash is a Republican, the Laramie County GOP will select three candidates who apply for the role. The commissioners will then choose someone to fill Ash’s seat from those three.

“We’re really going to miss you,” Holmes said. “We wish you godspeed and much good to happen to you in your future endeavors.”

Margaret Austin is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. She can be reached at maustin@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3152. Follow her on Twitter at @MargaretMAustin.

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