SRO city meeting told shelter and Cheyenne might extend their deal

Jonathan Make
5 min readMar 20, 2023

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It was again standing room only, at another City Council hearing that included discussion on safeguarding stray pets, this afternoon at the Municipal Building. Many from the community and the Cheyenne Animal Shelter turned out.

They weighed in on whether the city should move its contract from CAS to its very own lost-animal shelter. In recent weeks, news emerged that the shelter stood to lose its contract, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, as some city officials balked at the cost.

In what would be a positive development for those residents who want to leave things in place, government and Council officials told the meeting that some sort of version of the current arrangement might be allowed to continue. Indeed, according to one CAS board member, Mayor Patrick Collins was scheduled to have met right then with the shelter’s representatives.

The two sides discussed the matter of transparency, for CAS to provide some of the requested financial details sought by the city, the shelter’s CEO, Britney Tennant, said towards the end of the Finance Committee’s meeting.

On Monday afternoon at the panel, there were so many attendees who came to speak in favor of keeping the relationship as-is that these stakeholders initially were seated in an overflow room. This was apart from the biweekly gathering of the City Council’s Finance Committee, which was gathered in the meeting room itself.

The issue up for consideration now was whether the Finance Committee, a subset of the larger City Council, should vote to enter into a deal to lease a building to host a potential metropolitan area government-run animal shelter. Meals on Wheels had a building to spare in Cheyenne, and so the city was considering paying the organization to use it for the potential new municipal shelter.

This would be separate from CAS, which runs a range of services in addition to accepting stray pets. Just last week, the full City Council heard from a dozen-plus supporters of the existing nonprofit shelter, who wanted to preserve the city’s existing contractual relationship with CAS.

At Monday’s gathering, multiple officials suggested that the contract up for consideration with Meals on Wheels would be a back-up plan. Under this theory, it would only host a metro shelter if CAS and the city of Cheyenne remain at an impasse.

As Cheyenne’s Director of Compliance Eric Fountain said, metro animal services is “a Plan B option.” He added, referring to the property lease contract, that it “by no means does this mean this is a done deal.”

Cheyenne’s Director of Compliance Eric Fountain. Source: city’s own website.

“We would like to continue with that relationship” between the city and the Cheyenne Animal Shelter, Fountain told the Finance Committee. “I think there is a little bit of a thought process that we can achieve that.”

The City Council member who chairs the finance panel, Jeff White, also voiced optimism along these lines. “I know that discussions are taking place,” he said. “I know that there has been some progress that has taken place between last week and this week.”

Cheyenne’s Director of Compliance Eric Fountain testifies to a City Council panel (back to camera). Facing the camera is the panel’s chair, Jeff White, and panel member and fellow Council member Michelle Aldrich.

Michelle Aldrich, a member of both the City Council and its Finance Committee, likewise described the draft contract between Cheyenne and Meals on Wheels as a Plan B alternative option.

“While it may be an exercise in futility, and I hope it is,” she said of that document, it is good to have Plan B. At this time, she later pointed out, “there are lots of things we don’t know and lots of things that we are not privy to.”

Aldrich did affirm that a CAS board member had previously indicated that the contract’s value could rise to $1 million-plus. Another Council and Finance Committee member said similar.

The existing contract expires at the end of June, Aldrich noted. For the view of CAS on this situation, see here for a recent update from CEO Tennant. She has been taking part in the contract-renewal conversations with Mayor Collins. See here for recent comments from Collins.

Another theme of the Finance Committee meeting was the lack of details, before either the public or the City Council, that would have data comparing the metro shelter to CAS. There was missing information on some of the costs and missing analysis such as a cost-benefit-risk comparison.

Councilman Pete Laybourn, who himself is not a member of the finance body, was among those speaking to his confusion over the situation and to the lack of detail on any transition from CAS to a government shelter.

“I’m very confused, and I think that confusion is broadly shared,” Laybourn said during the public-comment portion of the meeting. “There is clearly one theme that I heard discussed moments ago, and that is the question of negotiations” between the two sides, he continued. “Where is the Council involvement in those negotiations? Eventually, it’s going to come to us” and so the full body would need more information.

Councilman Pete Laybourn. Source: city of Cheyenne website.

As for the next time this subject may come up, White suggested the issue could arise in one week. That is when, next Monday evening, the full City Council meets.

At the end of the meeting, the Finance Committee voted unanimously to approve what was described as a relatively minor clarification to make a change to the building lease contract with Meals on Wheels.

A short time later, the committee OK’d the overall lease itself by a vote of 2–1. (White, the Finance Committee’s chair, only votes when there is a tie, so he did not formally weigh in here.)

“My feeling is we can come to an agreement” to continue the shelter’s current arrangement, Council and Finance Committee member Ken Esquibel told the meeting. “I know that both sides are close” to reaching a new pact.

For recent news-media coverage of this issue, see here for an editorial this past Saturday by the local newspaper, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. For coverage of the City Council meeting last week, see this WTE news story (this article is not an opinion column).

By way of disclosure, I used to work for the WTE as an editor, columnist and occasional reporter. More recently, I applied for a job at CAS. Although I did not get the job, I remain interested in what happens with the shelter, where my family has previously applied to volunteer. And by way of further entanglement, our family adopted last year one of our dogs from CAS. Both in my spare time here on Medium and in my job at the WTE, I wrote about the adoption process.

Another local media organization, the online-only Cowboy State Daily, has also covered the CAS-city contractual issue. Here is one such recent story, focused on transparency.

My column at the WTE, about adopting one of our dogs from CAS.

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Jonathan Make

I work at USPTO but my views only here. Buff about good journalism, writing, art & culture. Heart my wife, son & pets.