Cheyenne’s recent decision to look at annexing F.E.Warren Air Force Base came as a surprise to Laramie County Commissioners, according to Commissioner Gunnar Malm.
“We’ve had a very good working relationship with the city over the last number of years and while this doesn’t necessarily deteriorate that relationship, it was kind of a surprise that they didn’t discuss it with us first or just let us know,” he told Cowboy State Daily.
The decision was made during a recent Cheyenne City Council Public Services Committee meeting. Ward Two Councilman Tom Segrave and Ward Three Councilwoman Michelle Aldrich co-sponsored a resolution that directed city staff to begin reviewing the legalities of annexing the military that is adjacent to Cheyenne’s western border.
The city is already supplying water and sewer to the military base, and Councilwoman Aldrich told Cowboy State Daily that annexation of the base has been a topic off and on for 20 years.
Segrave and Mayor Patrick Collins, meanwhile, told Cowboy State Daily the area to the south and west of the city is poised to grow.
“That area is going to start to expand,” Collins said. “We are going to start to see a need for more business parks, and we want to be able to serve those and have them be in city limits.”
County Will Take Significant Budget Hit
While the move will bring more population to Cheyenne, boosting its sales tax revenues and federal monies that are distributed based on population stats, the county will take a significant funding hit.
The military base has a population of 2,900 people. Malm estimated that a drop of 2,900 in county population would translate to about a 3 percent drop in sales tax revenue for the county.
That’s not counting any other areas that Cheyenne might annex along its southern and western borders.
“Sales taxes are distributed by population,” Malm told Cowboy State Daily. “While there’s no property taxes paid on the base, the population that the city gains and the county loses will obviously affect revenues for the county.”
That could potentially affect contributions that both Cheyenne and Laramie county make on shared agencies, Malm added.
“As our revenues decline, and theirs increase, we would have to look at what that means,” he said.
The move to annex the base isn’t something the county is necessarily looking to stop, Malm added.
“And so, we have no ability to stop it, I would just hope that as they work through this process, they would be in consultation with the Commission and really try to continue the good working relationship that we’ve had for the last number of years.”
Collins told Cowboy State Daily that Cheyenne’s growth on the west side of the city has been hampered by the presence of the military base, which spans almost 6,000 acres to Cheyenne’s west.
“We can’t grow because there’s a wall to our west,” Collins said. “If we annex (the base) that wall goes away. If you think about annexation laws, you have to touch land in order to be able to grow, and if there’s a base between you and the land, you can’t grow.”
Annexation of the military base won’t change operations at the base any, Collins added. The city has a military zone designation, which essentially allows the base to opt out of any or all city provisions as it sees fit.
Those on the base should not see any detrimental changes, though the rates for some things like park fees might drop, as residents would get the city rate.
F.E. Warren’s spokesmen have told Cowboy State Daily the base is neutral on the annexation.
“According to the Department of Defense Instruction 4165.70 paragraph 6.10.1, the Department of Defense remains neutral relative to annexation proposals by a municipality,” spokesman Joseph Coslett said in an email to Cowboy State Daily. “We have a very close relationship with the City of Cheyenne and Laramie County and appreciate their continued support.”
Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.