The Municipal Building’s main sign is pictured Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, in Cheyenne. Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – With an eye toward the future of technology and entrepreneurship in Cheyenne, the Cheyenne City Council approved two resolutions Monday that will create a Technology Advisory Council and an Innovation and Entrepreneur Advisory Council.

Councilwoman Michelle Aldrich, the sponsor of the resolutions, said the move was partially inspired by the venture capital firm that's coming to Cheyenne, which was announced toward the end of last year. The goal of these advisory councils is to help the city be better prepared to accommodate such businesses, which bring well-paying jobs and expanded offerings to Cheyenne.

“We have a lot of opportunities, but we have to be ready for those when they come; we have to know what we're doing in order to encourage that,” Aldrich said. “I think these two advisory councils will help us move in that direction.”

For the Technology Advisory Council, the main focus will be forwarding worthwhile projects, researching issues and collecting public input; promoting affordable access to information and communications technology; and advising effective electronic civic engagement and e-government services.

With a venture capital firm coming to town, and with new programs like the gBETA startup pre-accelerator, Mayor Patrick Collins said these industries are an important part of what Cheyenne could become. Tech jobs tend to be high-paying and attract younger employees, both of which, Collins said, are beneficial for Cheyenne residents.

"We have a tech environment that's starting to happen here in Cheyenne," Collins said. "So what I wanted to do as the new mayor was to get together a group of people in this arena who can talk to me about what should the city be doing; what are some best practices that are happening in other communities; what can we do to help facilitate building that tech ecosystem here in in Cheyenne?"

As for the Innovation and Entrepreneur Advisory Council, the stakeholders will take a comprehensive approach to looking at the things that improve the quality of life in Cheyenne and encourage workforce development in the community.

Aldrich said that council will include representatives in technology, performing arts, visual arts, music and culinary arts, as well as five mentees between the ages of 18 and 24 to help deepen their knowledge of fast-evolving technologies.

They’ll focus on keeping an ongoing dialogue with the entrepreneurship and workforce development officials in the community, and will aim to empower the community so that entrepreneurs can launch companies, scale technology and create the jobs of tomorrow, according to the resolution passed Monday.

“Unless we start providing development for our young people, our 18- to 24-year-olds, to really develop their leadership abilities, their passions and their interests in some of these topics, we're really doing ourselves a disservice,” Aldrich said. “In order to attract young people, we need to know what young people are interested in and what is drawing them in. I feel like this is a way to really incorporate some of our younger stakeholders in our community and plan toward the future.”

The council unanimously approved both resolutions. Both advisory councils will likely start accepting applications at the beginning of March.

ADA compliance at city hall

At city hall, a number of issues exist related to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. But the council approved a resolution Monday sponsored by Councilman Pete Laybourn that will put the city on a path toward compliance.

Going forward, an evaluation of ADA compliance at the Municipal Building will be completed at a cost of $10,000, which will likely come from the Facilities Capital Improvement Program fund. That evaluation will then be used to create a plan of action for bringing the building up to date in terms of accessibility.

“We need to do it because it's the right thing to do. Our staff, people who come to this building really need to have that full accessibility,” Laybourn said. “That is federally mandated, but it’s also our responsibility.”

A few years back, the first-floor bathroom was redone to be accessible for people with disabilities, whether they have an electric wheelchair or a service animal. Previously, the building had no accessible bathrooms.

While the improvement plan will likely result in more accessibility than just bathrooms for people with disabilities, it also covers the city for any liabilities related to the ADA. With no plan or timeline for improvements, a complaint to the Department of Justice would then require all those improvements to be made at once, instead of over a period of time.

“The city of Cheyenne Municipal Building is not currently in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. … The risk that we face is that if the Department of Justice were to investigate our building, they could immediately order that all remediation occur,” City Attorney Mike O’Donnell said.

By carrying out an evaluation and coming up with a transition plan, the city will meet the ADA requirements and mitigate that risk. The resolution was approved on the consent agenda.

Revoking or suspending liquor licenses

An ordinance was introduced Monday that would allow the council to suspend or revoke a business’s liquor license if it does not comply with state laws or city code.

Right now, the city cannot take action on noncomplying bars, restaurants or other entities with liquor licenses until it’s time for the license to be renewed, which happens each year. It can only consider those violations of law or code at the time of renewal.

“If there's a problem with liquor dealers not obeying the state laws or city ordinances, we really get one shot at them, and that is at the renewal time at the end of the year,” Collins said. “I think that's frustrating for members of the council and the staff. And so this change would allow for those kinds of enforcement actions to happen.”

He referenced issues such as serving minors alcohol, though he noted the city would target enforcement at repeat offenders. Right now, a violation of the state health orders would also be considered a violation of state statute.

Under the ordinance, the power would lie in the city clerk’s office to suspend an entity’s liquor license. After that happens, that business could file an appeal with the city, which Collins said would be heard by an unbiased arbitrator. Then, it would be possible to take the matter to court, if the business owner so desired.

“We're taking the politics out of it. So if we see a violation, the city clerk would do their investigation, and they can then start the proceedings,” Collins said.

The ordinance still has two more readings and two committee meetings to go through before a final vote.

New playground equipment for two parks

Thanks to some grant funding, both Pioneer and Lions parks will see new playground equipment this summer, with construction slated for completion by the end of June.

The playground at Pioneer Park will be completely replaced, and a new safety system will take the place of wood fiber on the playground. The project is made possible by a Community Development Block Grant at a cost of $216,996.

With a Land and Water Conservation grant, the playground equipment in the south portion of Lions Park will also be replaced. That project comes in at just under $250,000, and it is much needed for what Community Recreation and Events Director Jason Sanchez said is the oldest playground in the city.

“We no longer can get replacement parts for that playground, so this was a pretty important project for us,” Sanchez said.

24th Street mill/overlay contract approved

With funding from previous years’ fifth-penny sales tax, the council approved $1.16 million for the 24th Street Mill and Overlay project, which will stretch from Missile Drive to Warren Avenue. Simon Contractors, with the lower of the two bids received, will carry out the project.

Two inches of existing asphalt will be removed from the road and replaced with new material. Curbs, gutters, sidewalks and other concrete in disrepair will be fixed up as part of the project, and Cheyenne Construction Manager Doug Klahn said 6,360 square feet of sidewalk will be replaced.

“We've reviewed this project, and we're confident in the scope and the bid of this project, and we recommend moving forward with the contract process,” Klahn said.

New Cheyenne Police chief appointed

The council appointed Mark Francisco as Cheyenne Police Chief, after Mayor Patrick Collins announced his decision last Wednesday. Francisco will bring two decades of experience from Kansas City, Missouri.

“I love Wyoming, and I’m beyond excited to get to come out there and be part of the police team and part of the community,” Francisco previously told the Tribune Eagle.

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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