UP to Mayor Patrick Collins and members of the Cheyenne City Council for moving forward with the possibility of using a federal energy efficiency program to spur more downtown redevelopment.

The Property Assessed Clean Energy program helps commercial property owners install energy-efficient systems, such as HVAC and lighting, without making a large initial cash payment. After securing a loan through the PACE program, they repay these improvement costs over a set period of time – typically 10 to 20 years – through property assessments, which are secured by the property itself and paid as an addition to their property tax bills. That way, the debt is attached to the property, not the owner, in case it is sold to another entity at some point.

Cheyenne certainly has no shortage of large buildings that need to be redeveloped, but a major hurdle developers often cite is the high cost of bringing historic structures up to date. Projects like the long-vacant Hynds Building need millions of dollars worth of HVAC and other upgrades, and without guaranteed tenants, it can be too risky to spend that kind of money upfront. That’s why Mr. Collins said at least two developers have already expressed interest in participating in this program.

Though it will take staff time to set up the required Energy Improvement Area and other details, the only long-term cost to the city is the time it takes to manage the program. If it can help get these large-scale projects going, it’s definitely worth that investment.

UP to Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department and Laramie County School District 1 officials for prioritizing COVID-19 vaccinations for approximately 1,500 teachers and other school district staff earlier this month.

The fact that local districts have offered in-person classes since last fall while other parts of the country have been shut down is not lost on us. But it’s been a struggle at times, as dozens of teachers have had to be quarantined for two weeks at a time, leaving district leaders scrambling to find enough substitutes to cover their classes.

That’s partly because many of the district’s substitute teachers are older, and they couldn’t take the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus. Other teachers live with a parent or someone in their family is immune compromised, making it more important for them to avoid contracting COVID-19.

We wish there were enough vaccine doses to get all seniors and others who want it vaccinated faster, but we know these front-line workers have to take priority, for the sake of our children and their education. We just hope there’s enough vaccine – and willingness to receive it – to protect all 2,600 district employees in LCSD1, plus everyone in LCSD2, as soon as possible.

UP to the Laramie County School District 1 Board of Trustees for holding an open, accessible process for choosing a new leader for the state’s largest school district.

When current Superintendent Boyd Brown announced he would be stepping down at the end of the current school year, some of us were concerned about how the process to replace him would be conducted. Yet even in an ongoing pandemic, school board members and district staff have ensured residents could submit questions for each of the four finalists and participate in virtual Q&A sessions with them.

The district also created a separate web page, on which residents could review the resumes of each finalist, register to watch the live forums and provide feedback after each forum. (We only wish they had been recorded and posted to the district’s YouTube page.)

While we know candidate interviews by the school board and the final selection discussion must be conducted behind closed doors to ensure all issues are addressed openly, we appreciate the opportunity to “meet” the candidates in a safe way. And regardless of who the trustees end up picking, we’re glad they will have input from a variety of constituents as they make their decision.

UP to State Auditor Kristi Racines for making CARES Act expenditure information available on her agency’s transparency website, WyOpen.gov.

Now, anyone who wants to dig into how the federal COVID-19 relief money has been spent in Wyoming can do so, either by filtering the data online, or by downloading a PDF or Microsoft Excel file.

With billions of taxpayer dollars spent to help businesses, nonprofits and government entities continue operations during the pandemic, it’s important to be able to see who has received money and for what.

This level of accountability and transparency is a refreshing change from previous administrations, under which open government groups had to sue just to see the state’s checkbook. Under Gov. Mark Gordon and Auditor Racines, that information is readily available, as well, and updated regularly. We applaud and appreciate their efforts.

WE WANT TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK: Contact us via email at opinion@wyomingnews.com.

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