Despite significant state-funding reductions, the Laramie City Council managed to rework the budget to preserve city services in 2017 and contract a company to provide Laramigos with curbside green waste pickup in replacement of the green waste bin program.
The year included several changes for the members of the council as they elected Andi Summerville as mayor, bid farewell to former Councilor Vicki Henry and welcomed new councilors Pat Gabriel, Charles McKinney and Phoebe Stoner.
Adjusting the budget
To adjust for cuts to Laramie’s state-shared funding, the City Council canceled plans for several major capital construction projects slated for 2017 and 2018.
Dubbed the Madden Formula after its sponsor Rep. Mike Madden, R-Buffalo, a funding methodology approved during the 2016 Legislative Budget Session significantly cut state-shared funding to some of Wyoming’s municipalities while shuffling the revenue into a majority of the state’s municipalities.
Of the municipalities to receive less funding, Laramie bore the brunt of the reductions with more than $500,000 cut from state-shared funding. Madden’s home town of Buffalo was one of the municipalities to receive increased funding from the state.
Councilors approved a resolution in September to decrease Laramie’s general fund budget by eliminating high-dollar projects after the state released a new formula for providing municipalities with funding.
“Basically, what we are saying is we are going to make provisions to take another half-a-million-dollar hit to the city,” Councilor Joe Shumway said at a Sept. 19 council meeting.
The projects selected for the chopping block were a $100,000 upgrade to the Laramie Animal Shelter furnace, more than $400,000, including the loss of a $225,000 grant, removed from scheduled Scout Park additions, $60,000 for the Bill Nye median landscape project and delaying a $90,000 monitoring well project on Interstate 80, according to city documents.
Although green waste collection sites were discontinued, Laramie residents were able to opt into a curbside service this summer for yard waste pickup.
McBride’s Yard Waste co-owners Gene Russel and Jonathan McBride entered into a contract for a private green waste collection service in June, which was slated to reduce some of the city composting program’s $160,000 a year deficit.
“Neighborhood collection sites are a component of the composting program,” Laramie Public Works Director Earl Smith said at a council meeting June. “They were never meant to be a long-term feature for the community.”
With a 10-year contract, McBride’s Yard Waste service fee was slated to start at $69 a year, but the company offered Laramie residents free service through November as a way to introduce the service to the community. The contract allows the company to adjust the fees up to 4 percent a year to account for inflation.
The service was started in part because neighborhood green waste collection sites were plagued with misuse and illegal dumping, which increased the labor the city dedicated to keeping the sites clean and safe.
“There’s trash being dropped at those sites constantly,” Summerville said at a council meeting in May. “Commercial green waste keeps showing up in those bins. I just don’t think it’s feasible to continue those collection sites.”
During a council work session in June, Laramie City Manager Janine Jordan said the composting program, which includes the green waste program, was operating at about a $160,000 deficit.
Of the $160,000 deficit, she said city staff estimates the green waste collection program accounted for about $81,000.
In January, the City Council welcomed newly elected councilors McKinney and Gabriel, who replaced former councilors Joe Vitale and Paul Weaver.
At the same meeting, the council also elected Summerville as mayor.
“I’m deeply honored by the confidence expressed by my colleagues tonight,” Summerville said in January. “I look forward to continuing to work with my city colleagues, other local and state elected officials, outside agencies and community members to keep Laramie the place we all love.”
In September, Henry, a former councilor from Ward 1, tendered her resignation.
Elected to her second term on the City Council in 2016, Henry stated in her resignation letter she was moving to Arizona to address family matters; thus, she could not complete her term as councilor.
A consistent voice of support for matters involving the Monolith Ranch and Casper Aquifer, Henry said she served on the planning commission for about eight years before running for her first term on council in 2012.
“It is with very mixed emotions that I am leaving, but family does come first,” Henry said in September. “I’m really torn, because I feel a huge duty to the residents.”
The council appointed Stoner to replace Henry after interviewing five applicants.
“I am absolutely honored to be in this seat, and I want to thank my fellow councilors allowing me to join them,” Stoner said in November. “It’s incredibly humbling.”
The new councilor said during her term, which ends in 2018, she hopes to help Laramie improve on the building blocks already set in place by the City Council and community.
After months of public meetings, work sessions and revisions, the City Council approved an ordinance regulating mobile vending in Laramie.
The process of approving a mobile-vending ordinance, which does not include pre-packaged food vendors such as Schwan’s or ice cream trucks, began with the council approving a goal in February for regulating Laramie’s public right-of-ways.
After meeting with mobile vendors, city staff drafted an ordinance for the City Council to review in August.
Even during the final reading, the councilors amended the mobile vending ordinance several times adjusting fees, requirements for mobile vendors to move their units on a regular basis and how mobile vending units should be stored when not in use.
“I don’t think it’s necessary for us to regulate private property, especially when it’s concerning mobile vendors,” Councilor Dave Paulekas said in September.
The council unanimously approved the final reading of the mobile vending ordinance as amended.