Mayor Patrick Collins mug.jpg

Mayor Patrick Collins

I flew to Shreveport, Louisiana, last Thursday to attend the promotion and change of command for Tony Cotton. I got to know Maj. Gen. Cotton when he served here in Cheyenne as the Commander of the 20th Air Force. Fast forward a few years, and he has been nominated for promotion to his fourth star and command of Air Force Global Strike Command.

It was great to see Tony make the rank of general and to have his family put the fourth star on his shoulders. It is important to have a missile guy command the United States Air Force Global Strike Command as we are entering the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent missile upgrade that we know is coming to F.E. Warren Air Force Base. Global Strike Command oversees two-thirds of our nuclear triad. The 20th Air Force has responsibility for our nation’s three intercontinental ballistic missile wings, and the 8th Air Force has the B-52, B-1 and B-2 bomber force.

Congratulations to Tony and his wife Marsha. I was happy to get out of there before the hurricane hit the coast.

I was proud to welcome the Missouri Valley Fire Chiefs conference, held here in Cheyenne this week. Our fire department is the host, and they brought a bunch of fire chiefs to stay in our hotels and share their experiences during this COVID time. I thanked them for their leadership during these hard times, and asked them to spend a lot of money so we can pay for our fire department. I received a polite chuckle. Truly, these guys have chosen an amazing profession.

One decision our City Council will have to make next year is how we will provide health insurance for our employees. We have been planning the transition to a self-insured model for a couple years now. I met with Neil Bertrand, CFO of Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, to discuss how we could partner to deliver great coverage for our employees and save the city money. We are 10 months from having to make the decision, but wanted to get the discussions rolling so we can make an informed decision when the time comes.

We received some very good news this week. The Hitching Post property has been sold to a local developer, Robert Chamberlin, who plans to clean it up and begin redeveloping the property next spring. It is so exciting to know we will clean up the area and make our western entrance to the city presentable to our guests. The closing was held up for a couple of days as the hurricane that hit the East Coast kept the FedEx packages from moving. The sale has closed, and my thanks to Robert and his team for their vision and courage.

It was bittersweet this week as we said goodbye to our beloved city attorney, Michael O’Donnell. Mike and his wife both retired this Friday, and I am happy they will have time to rest, travel and ride their e-bikes. Mike has been a great teammate, and we will miss him and his sage counsel. One great part of these events are the cupcakes from Swirls & Pearls. The red velvet is worth the trip.

Coyote Ridge is the name of the new fifth- and sixth-grade school that is planned to be built on Powderhouse Road at Carlson Street. This school is a couple years behind due to budget considerations. We met with Laramie County School District 1 to finalize how the city can help make the school happen. As with most projects, both sides have worked together, and I hope we have found the secret sauce to get the state folks to finally approve the school construction getting started. All the schools in the area are at capacity, and moving the fifth and sixth grades to the new building will help our kids have the chance to walk to their neighborhood school.

Our Urban Renewal Authority Board met to continue the discussions on helping our city clean up and redevelop properties in our city. The first project is the Hitching Post Plan Area. They approved paying for the cleanup of the contaminated buildings on the property. This is the step that is so important to getting the redevelopment of the entire area. You should see action starting right after the Labor Day holiday. I hope to swing a ceremonial first sledgehammer. A celebration is definitely in order.

I have shared with you in the past that we have a firefighter retirement plan that is projected to go broke in the next few years. There are 272 firefighters in our state still on this retirement program; 79 are Cheyenne retirees. We met again to talk about how to save the retirement fund and make sure our retired firefighters get the retirement they have earned and that we have promised. It sounds like the state Legislature is going to propose a bill to save the fund. It will take a partnership of all the cities involved and the state to fix the problem. We will be attending the committee meeting next Thursday to hear the proposed solution and stand ready to do our part to honor our guarantee to our retired firefighters.

You may be seeing a lot of huge pipes and construction cones north of the Wyoming Capitol along 26th Street. The city has spent the past 20 years working to make us safe from flooding. Projects like Pando Park, the detention pond at the Cheyenne Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Dry Creek realignment, Henderson Basin, Crow Creek and many other projects have been completed. One of the last big projects is the Capitol Basin. The construction you now see is creating a huge interceptor that will capture water heading south that would flood the Capitol and downtown. It will move it using the huge pipes to the west and eventually to Crow Creek. It is a partnership between the state and the city and will make our community safer.

I hope you all have a safe and fun Labor Day weekend. If you have a question for me, send it to media@cheyennecity.org. I’ll continue to answer them in future Mayor’s Minute columns.

Patrick Collins is the mayor of Cheyenne.

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