After discussing options for closing 15th Street with University of Wyoming staff, Mayor Andi Summerville said the next step forward is ensuring conversations continue.
“I think it was a good first conversation,” Summerville said. “It’s not a popular subject right off the bat, but I think was a good start to talking about the subject.”
The Laramie City Council and UW staff members discussed a footnote in the state’s supplemental budget during the council’s work session Tuesday.
“The University of Wyoming shall request a meeting with the City of Laramie to address the need for vacating (15th) Street between … Willett Drive and … Ivinson (Avenue) to unify the campus and protect pedestrian traffic,” the state’s supplemental budget footnote states.
Legislators requested a report from UW about the discussion by Nov. 1.
“We’re not going to have an absolute ‘yes, we’re going to do this,’ or ‘no, we’re not going to do this’ to Legislature by November,” Summerville said. “But we will have some ball park-figures and options for doing it. And I do stress ball-park figures.”
UW Vice President for Government and Community Affairs Chris Boswell also said the conversation went well.
“I appreciated the openness of the city councilors to the discussion,” Boswell said. “There are a few things to come to grips with here — one is a legislative footnote that hits home with the councilors.”
Going forward, Boswell said it would be imperative for the city and UW to continue the discussion on both administrative and engineering levels.
“Appropriate staff will have those conversations,” he said. “It’s important for people to put out thumbnail ideas and ballpark — very rough — ideas of what this might look like.”
While councilors and members of the public questioned the source of funding for the project, Boswell said it was too early in the planning process to determine revenue sources.
“Both of these institutions are facing very tight budgets going forward,” he said.
Summerville said options that presented smaller projects such as a modification to city plan for Ivinson Avenue could be funded through a partnership with UW, but larger projects such as completely closing 15th Street from Willett Drive to Ivinson Avenue could require funding from other agencies.
“The city of Laramie is not in any position to pay for any major capital construction projects right now,” she said. “Major projects could require help from Legislature. If the price is too high, it’s not feasible. At some point in time, that cost piece is going to become a very big factor in this.”
Because the city received no advance notice about the footnote, Summerville said the traffic data used to create the report for Legislature would need to come from older reports.
“None of us were planning on this,” Summerville said. “It kind of came out of left field from the Legislature, so we don’t have anything set aside for traffic counts.”
Another component of the conversation could be thoughts from the community.
“I think public input is going to drive this significantly,” Summerville said. “I’d like to hear from residents that use the intersection, and I want to hear from commuters. This is going to affect everyone and I want to hear what they think.”
Boswell said UW would likely seek input from the Associated Students of the University of Wyoming in the future, but with recent changes to leadership and commencement nearing, he said the conversation might need to happen later rather than sooner.
“I certainly hope we have — if need be — some separate meetings from the students,” Summerville said. “They are certainly the highest users of the intersection.”
Town hall meetings for public comment on closing 15th Street could be scheduled as soon as June, she said.
“This is an important topic,” Summerville said. “People don’t have to wait until a town hall.”
The mayor said people could call or email their ward representatives with concerns about the project.
City council happenings
City staff presents City Council, UW options for 15th Street
Responding to a footnote in the state’s supplemental budget, Laramie city staff compiled a list of options for increasing pedestrian safety on 15th Street between Willett Drive and Ivinson Avenue.
Laramie Planning Division Planning Manager Derek Teini presented the six options to the Laramie City Council and University of Wyoming staff members during a council work session Tuesday.
Option 1: Completely close 15th Street from Willett Drive to Ivinson Avenue
Considerations presented by city staff include: traffic would be rerouted to Ninth and 22nd streets, parking access for the Wyoming Union would change, Fraternity and Sorority Row access would change, bus routes would be affected, commute times would increase, emergency services would be affected and access to campus would change and underground utilities could be affected. The plan would meet the Legislature’s requests to unify campus and increase pedestrian safety.
Option 2: Partial closure of 15th Street from Willet Drive to Fraternity Row
Considerations presented by city staff include: traffic would be rerouted to Ninth and 22nd streets, bus routes would be affected, commute times would increase, emergency services would be affected and underground utilities could be affected. The plan would meet the Legislature’s request to increase pedestrian safety, but campus unification would be minor.
Option 3: Partial closure of 15th Street from Willett Drive to Ivinson Avenue
Considerations presented by city staff include: traffic would be rerouted to Ninth and 22nd streets, commute times would increase, emergency services would be affected and access to campus would change and underground utilities could be affected. The plan would meet the Legislature’s request to increase pedestrian safety, but campus unification would be minor.
Option 4: Overpass concept
Considerations presented by city staff include: physical structures would require large amounts of sidewalk space, fences or walls would needed to funnel pedestrians onto overpass, above-ground utilities could be affected and pedestrian commute times could increase. The plan would meet the Legislature’s request to increase pedestrian safety, but not campus unification.
Option 5: Underpass concept
Considerations presented by city staff include: physical structures would require extensive construction, fences or walls would needed to funnel pedestrians onto overpass, Laramie’s high-water table could pose obstacles for construction, underground utilities could be affected and pedestrian commute times could increase. The plan would meet the Legislature’s request to increase pedestrian safety, but not campus unification.
Option 6: Modify a previous design concept dubbed “The Ivinson Plan for 15th Street”
Considerations presented by city staff include: 15th Street would remain open with a raised pedestrian table and crossing area at the intersection of 15th Street and Ivinson Avenue, Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility, use islands, landscaping and street curves to slow traffic, vehicle and pedestrian commute times would increase. The plan would meet the Legislature’s request to increase pedestrian safety, but not campus unification.
Laramie Rifle Range member alleges board of directors led by intimidation
The Laramie Rifle Range has problems and the City Council needs to step in to fix them, one member told the councilors during a work session Tuesday.
A former Laramie Rifle Range president, Roy Bane said the facility recently fell into turmoil regarding a new building and a pattern of bad leadership.
“At the (April) meeting (of the Laramie Rifle Range board of directors), the president of Laramie Rifle Range made the comment he didn’t receive any pay as a board director,” Bane said. “He does receive pay.”
After the meeting, Councilor Bryan Shuster, the council’s liaison for the rifle range, said the pay situation was more nuanced than Bane explained.
“Tom Mattimore said he did not receive money from the rifle range, and he does not,” Shuster said.
“He is offered a check like everyone else, but he turns them down and does everything out there free of cost.”
Bane said Mattimore made other false statements but the directors didn’t dispute them.
“That says to me you got a lot more problems out there,” he said.
The problems began when the board accepted the high bid on project replacing one of the facilities structures, Bane said. Although the process was scrapped and started anew, the result was the same a couple months later, he added.
“My concern with the Laramie Rifle Range is not the bid process,” Bane said. “But that the board of directors is being controlled by intimidation by the president.”
Shuster said he had not witnessed Mattimore use intimidation tactics.
“I have two people that can’t get along,” Shuster said. “If I could get those two people to get along, it would be going really well (at the rifle range).”
Bane suggested the council take away the board of directors pay for two years to recoup the difference between the high bid and the low bid, about $15,000, on the shed project as well as lower membership fees to remove the incentive for board members to hoard funds.
“Realistically, I think what it’s going to take is the City Council stepping in to fix this,” Bane said.