Mayor Eyes Growth, But Remains Wary Of Energy Revenue Slide
The Casper City Council welcomed three new members, said good-bye to three others, introduced their families and committed itself to collegiality at its first meeting of the year Tuesdsay.
New Vice President Dan Sandoval and new Mayor Charlie Powell offered words of encouragement for their fellow members and a pledge to act openly and with integrity.
Personal and procedural strife marked the council for the past two years, and Sandoval said that needs to change.
"In fights, people dig in, they lash out," he said. "They don't listen to reason because they don't have the patience.
"But history tells us that there are much better ways to resolve conflict than a fight, and it takes some of courage; a different kind of courage, a courage of peace to seek resolution."
Powell echoed that, adding the city will need improved transportation, emergency services, parks, upgrades to the waste water treatment plant, opportunities for young adults, development of the city's core, affordable housing, and assistance to the needy.
"We have seen our community change rapidly in recent years, and all the projections indicate that growth will continue and likely accelerate," he said.
But after the meeting, Powell qualified his comments about growth in light of the area's reliance on energy, the recent energy boom, and the even more recent dramatic slide in oil prices that are reminiscent of the hard times the area endured in the energy bust 30 years ago.
"It remains to be seen what the impact is on our population," Powell said.
"I'm still going on the projections that the population will grow," he said. "However, the revenue streams that the city relies on clearly are in jeopardy, and even though we are in very good financial position right now, we need to be very conservative with our expenditures and be careful that we don't take projects on that we can't afford."
The city especially needs to be wary of cutting services and personnel when the population is growing, because layoffs have long-term consequences, Powell said. "That was a very difficult lesson this community learned in the mid- to late-80s when we laid off police officers and firemen and then we tried to find replacements, and had great difficulty doing that."
State government plays a part in the city's future, too, because local revenues are sent to Cheyenne and come back to the municipalities and counties.
Powell wants to see a formula for funding the municipalities are stable and predictable, he said. "And we realize that's difficult when the sources of revenue for the state are also under great pressure as the prices of our resources go up and down and more recently down."
Budgeting involves anticipating a certain amount of money, taking care of the basics and maybe have something left over for other projects, Powell said. "If not, we can maintain the services we know the citizens need."