Last weekend, the Laramie City Council held its annual retreat to set its goals for 2020 and discussed protection of the Casper Aquifer, completing the census and maintaining city services amid a difficult financial outlook.
As in 2019, the council picked a few “high-level objectives” to focus on and opting to keep the 2019 goals of environmental stewardship, holistic economic development and maintaining city services. For 2020, the council also added infrastructure work as a goal.
Economic developmentCity officials said they’d like to spend the year improving the retail corridors of Third Street and Grand Avenue.
City Manager Janine Jordan said the city might consider using its economic development funds to renovate the old Kmart building to make it a more attractive location for businesses.
“If we could get a grant to help them remodel and have some nice entrances to make it look good, we could fill that,” Councilman Bryan Shuster said.
Jordan also said the city will want to continue with fostering public art to create a “sense of place.”
Councilman Brian Harrington said he’d like the city to help foster more affordable housing, using land-banking and other incentives to spur development.
Harrington said the city should also continue to “right-size” city code to remove obstacles to economic development.
EnvironmentCouncil members committed to updating the city’s Casper Aquifer Protection Plan, a batch of regulations that protect the underground water source that provides about half the city’s water.
“Since we adopted the CAPP in ’08, we’ve done tons of additional scientific research that we need to roll into an update,” Jordan said.
The council also resolved to have a “round table” meeting with Albany County commissioners to talk about aquifer protection more generally.
Jordan also said the city could follow-up on a study conducted Wenck and Associates, whose results found a link between septic systems and nitrate contamination on the east side of Laramie.
“We’ve always contemplated a Phase II study for Wenck to do, and that would be a nitrate loading analysis,” Jordan said. “We have an (request for proposals) ready to go.”
Harrington said he’d like to keep considering new rules for plastic bags.
Council members also said they’d like to bring more wind and solar projects to city of Laramie property, which Jordan said is a possibility at the Monolith Ranch.
Councilwoman Erin O’Doherty said she’d like to pursue expansion of the city’s recycling services.
The city is in the middle of upgrading its enterprise-resource planning software, which Jordan said should improve the city’s service.
“This ERP upgrade will increase our service to our residents but it will also increase our efficiency. It’s a high cost proposition upfront but its a 20-year investment,” Jordan said.
Keeping city services intact will continue to be a challenge, especially as funding from the state dwindles. In the last two years, annual direct distribution funding for Laramie has dropped by more than $600,000.
“Considering our budget forecast, continuing the same level of service we have now might be worth putting energy into,” Harrington said.
Council members expressed the need to advocate for more equitable funding distribution from the state during the upcoming legislative session.
They also discussed working to ensure that its salaries and benefits are sufficient to attract the employees it wants.
With the Pilot Hill property on the verge of becoming public land, council members said there be a need to prepare for the possibility of the city contributing to filling its infrastructure needs.
Jordan said there’s a possibility that traffic lights could be installed at three intersections in 2020.
The city plans to install a light at the corner of 22nd and Reynolds streets. The University of Wyoming has offered to pay for a light at the corner of Willett Drive and 22nd Street, and the Wyoming Department of Transportation is looking to put a light at Flint and Third streets.
Jordan said that water and sewer infrastructure will also be expanded to facilitate growth.
As UW drills its own water wells to move Jacoby Golf Course off the city’s water, Jordan said there will need to be rate increases for other water-users.
City officials also said there’s a need to still have UW pay some fee to account for its sewer usage, which will continue for Jacoby even if the city stops serving water to the golf course.
“We don’t know how to handle that,” Jordan said. “We don’t have sewer customers that aren’t water customers, and the rates tie together.”