CHEYENNE – The Cheyenne City Council put the final stamp of approval on the Downtown Development Authority’s fiscal year 2021 budget at its Monday meeting, and the budget reflects the quick pace set by new DDA Executive Director Amber Ash.
The $676,152 budget will pull about $250,000 from DDA reserves and include a number of new grants, giving Ash and her team the resources to complete community projects like creating a pocket park, bringing back the city’s bike sharing program and preserving downtown’s history with new sidewalk plaques.
While the DDA’s funding from the city was completely cut, dropping from $290,000 to zero, it does have the potential to receive some funding through the city from the federal CARES Act.
“The budget reflects both cuts in programming, as well as an increase in the reserve drawdowns due to the reduction in funding from the city,” Ash said.
Regardless of the cuts, the DDA announced the revitalization of the ReRide Bike Sharing Program last week. Going forward, residents will be able to unlock one of the bikes using the Koloni app, and each bike can be rented for $1 an hour. The bikes’ tires will lock up and an alarm will sound if someone tries to use it without checking it out, and all bikes have GPS tracking.
“We did receive a $3,000 grant from Cycle Wyoming, which allowed us to purchase six additional bikes,” Ash said.
With the help of two more grants, the DDA has two more community projects that should be rolled out during this fiscal year.
The History Under Foot project, which will be paid for with a $6,745 grant from the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund, aims to highlight the rich history of Cheyenne’s downtown with inset cast bronze plaques. While the grant will get the project started, the DDA plans to continue adding more plaques to downtown sidewalks as more funding becomes available in years to come.
Another grant from the Wyoming Arts Council will allow the DDA to complete a community mural, and Ash said the idea right now is to have volunteers help out in a paint-by-numbers fashion.
For this year, the DDA was able to save on its budget by installing greenery in downtown planters that should be viable all year round. The DDA will also be audited with the city this year, which will save about $11,000, and it will totally cut sponsorships for events in the downtown area, though it kept full funding for events put on by the DDA.
With the decline in city funding and the DDA’s four-year mill levy staying flat, Ash said it’s time for the organization to look for ways to be self-sufficient.
“The DDA is looking at leveraging our reserve account to develop long-term, sustainable funds. We are evaluating multiple development project options to determine which will be the best investment and which will have the highest returns,” Ash said.
“As we look at the funding and where we’re at now, as well as the potential challenges going forward with COVID, we believe that the DDA needs to diversify its financial portfolio and find a way to sustain more of its activities on its own.”
Two resolutions go into effect without mayor’s signature
Two resolutions approved at the July 13 City Council meeting went into effect without Mayor Marian Orr’s signature, Orr announced at the council meeting Monday.
Under city code, the mayor can choose to let an ordinance or resolution pass without their signature, or they can veto the measure and halt it altogether. Orr decided not to sign the resolution creating an open container district for Cheyenne Days, Legendary Nights and the resolution from the councilmen supporting the continuation of Fridays on the Plaza.
For the first resolution, the council created a special district for open containers against the request of DDA Executive Director Ash. The special district was originally proposed by the Cheyenne Downtown Development Authority before any solid plans were made due to the length of the council process.
When it turned out that there wouldn’t be any large events, like a concert, to bring people downtown, the DDA asked to withdraw its request. Both Ash and Cheyenne Police Chief Brian Kozak said bringing people downtown just to drink wasn’t a good idea. Orr and Councilman Pete Laybourn were the only members of the governing body who voted “no” at Ash’s request.
“The resolution was originally requested by the Downtown Development Authority for our consideration. Upon further review and concern of budgetary constraints for carrying out the request, the DDA provided public testimony that they no longer wished to pursue the allowances granted to them in the resolution and asked for a ‘no’ vote,” Orr said.
The second resolution Orr declined to sign was sponsored by eight of the nine city councilmen, with the exception of Laybourn. The resolution asked the mayor to reconsider her decision to cancel the Fridays on the Plaza summer concert series.
The move to cancel the concerts came as a surprise to the councilmen, who learned of the news in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. After the announcement, Councilman Scott Roybal said, “We were not contacted. We were not asked. There was no discussion.”
On Monday, Orr apologized for making the decision without looping in the City Council, but stood by it as a way “to protect the health and safety of our community.”
One of the main points made by the councilmen was that the city had a plan approved by the Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department to host the concerts under current health guidelines. The council cited economic harm to businesses without good reasoning.
To that, Orr said, “The plan was submitted when Cheyenne had experienced no new cases. Cheyenne then experienced an uptick in COVID cases, and, subsequently, the city department officials who submitted the plan to City-County Health made it known to me that they no longer thought they could carry the plan out.”