Read responses for Laramie Ward One Candidates
Read responses for Laramie Ward Two Candidates
Read responses for Laramie Ward Three Candidates
Read the letter send to City Council Candidates

Despite the names of state and federal agencies sounding like they protect water (e.g. Department of Environmental Quality, Environmental Protection Agency), most of them do so only in limited ways and generally after the fact (to fix the blame for the loss of water quality).

The Albany County Commission and the Laramie City Council hold primary responsibility for preventing degradation of drinking water sources.

The Albany County Commission controls development over most of the Casper Aquifer Protection Area and in the Wyoming portion of the Laramie River drainage. The Laramie City Council controls development over the small part of the Casper Aquifer Protection Area that lies within the city limits.

While only a small part of the Casper Aquifer Protection Area is under city jurisdiction, this is the part where substantial development already has taken place, before there was awareness of the need to protect the aquifer. Consequently, city councilors may have to consider questions pertaining to additional or expanded development.

Candidates run for Laramie City Council from three wards, (see map here). For ease of reference, candidates’ responses are organized by their wards. The races are nonpartisan. The letter sent to all the candidates with the questionnaire is shown at the end of the responses.

Laramie City Council Ward One

There are two seats up for election in Ward One, with four candidates running for the two seats. The top two vote getters will become city councilors for four-year terms.

Currently, Ward One is served by three councilors: Jessica Stalder, who was elected in 2018 for a four-year term; Charles McKinney, who is retiring; and Brian Harrington, who was elected in 2018 for a two-year term to fill a vacancy, and is running again for a four-year term.

Candidates for the two seats, in alphabetical order, are: Brett Glass, Brian Harrington, Kaleb Heien, and Andi Summerville. All four candidates responded, although Harrington and Summerville turned in their responses late.

1. The Aquifer Protection Overlay Zone (APOZ) lies mostly in the county, while the Casper Aquifer provides about half the drinking water for the vast majority of county residents, who live both in or near the City of Laramie. Recognizing this common interest, the Casper Aquifer Protection Plan began as a joint city-county document.

As a City Councilor, would you support returning to a unified County/City Casper Aquifer Protection Plan? Please explain your answer.

Glass: I would absolutely support a unified city/county aquifer protection plan. The primary benefit of such a plan is that it would set a baseline for protection of all portions of the aquifer and – if done properly – eliminate any need for the City to assert extraterritorial jurisdiction to restrict land use beyond the City limits. It should not, however, prohibit the City from imposing additional restrictions within the city limits, and/or engaging in other useful practices, such as the purchase of sensitive land to be sold with deed restrictions to prevent pollution.

Harrington: Continuing to work towards a collaborative relationship with the County for protection of our aquifer will remain a priority. Following the revision of the “donut” rule by the Wyoming Legislature, which removed any City influence on development proposals immediately adjacent to our boundary, it is more important than ever to have a cohesive strategy for resource protection between the county and the city. I will continue to work, as I have in my first term, to build a relationship with the County Commissioners to protect our most valuable asset. 

Heien: Yes, I would support returning to a plan with county and city unified. I believe you would have more information about the things the city worries about like septic systems. The reason for this would be to give voices to those outside of the city sewage and on their own septic system. The county is versed in this and provides needed input. There is only good which would come of this. 

Summerville: I believe strongly that there should be a single, unified County/City Casper Aquifer plan.  Both populations have substantial public health and safety considerations in the Casper Aquifer and a joint, long term plan, would enable the city, county and community partners to move forward in water and future development planning.  Two separate plans only create confusion and conflict for our population, as well as uncertainty for possible developments in the city and county.  We have quite a bit more information than we did when the CAP was first planned and I believe all current information should be shared, analyzed, and debated with the goal of creating a single, updated CAP. 

2. There are a number of businesses in the APOZ (East Grand area) that would not be permitted under the current regulations, but that existed prior to the enactment of the APOZ.

What are your views about possible future expansions of these businesses?

Glass: Expansion of businesses which could threaten the safety of the aquifer should be limited to those portions of their operations which do not increase their potential impact. There should be positive incentives – possibly in the form of grants or loans – for such expansion plans to include the construction of safeguards against contamination from existing operations.

Harrington: Weighing the risk level and economic opportunity of each development is an important responsibility of a member of council. In my view, a gas station or a car dealership parking lot do not offer sufficient economic benefits to outweigh what they jeopardize in terms of the health and economic growth of our entire community. I do not believe expansion should be permitted of any business listed on the prohibited use table of the Casper Aquifer Protection Plan. 

Heien: I believe the businesses in the area should be cautious when expanding and always following guidelines. The city just paid for research to be done on the fault line. In summary it concluded 3 scenarios in which we could contaminate the Casper Aquifer.  
1. For a huge contaminate to spill on an area over the fault line.  
2. For an enormous amount of water to be falling when a contaminate is introduced. Ie: Massive snow storm or massive rainstorm.  
3. For us not to clean up the contaminate at all for a long period of time.  
It would be one thing to say that if any of the previous thing happened alone then we would face contamination but no ALL of the things above would have to happen at one time. We are committed already to clean any spills that happen fast so I don’t see a huge threat. I would support beefing up our cleanup crews. Legally there isn’t anything you can do about those on the fault line or the interstate or should do (infringement on rights) so clean up is our best option. 

Summerville: There are three possible roads to walk down.  1)Allow the businesses to expand under a grandfather clause. 2)Allow the businesses to expand but work closely with them to identify engineering methods and other interventions that can protect the Casper Aquifer. 3) Work with these businesses on relocating, probably with land swaps/building agreements to protect both the Casper Aquifer and allow the business to continue to meet demand.  I would approach these options in reverse order with relocation being discussed first, followed by engineering methods/additional protections.  It is difficult for businesses that established along east Grand avenue to have their options limited, but as we can encourage growth/development away from east Grand avenue- relocation may become a more attractive option.  I think we must always sit down with open ears and listen to the concerns. Ideally as a community we can work together to find solutions that protect the Casper Aquifer first, and still allow our community to grow. 

3. The current city street plan shows a future street across the APOZ near City Springs (connecting 45th Street and Boulder Drive).

Would you support construction of this street? Please explain.

Glass: I would support construction of the street only if appropriate safeguards – such as concrete channels for runoff – were included. Potential land uses along any such street should be carefully constrained – by regulation or, better, by deed restrictions – to prevent contamination.

Harrington: It is possible that a street could be built with adequate engineering to prevent any likely contaminant from entering our water supply, but a road with this level of engineering is almost certain to be cost prohibitive. I understand the desire that the residents in the neighborhoods may have for more connectivity, but I don’t believe this is a viable option. If a spill were to occur and a contaminant entered the ground water at this location, the drinking water of residents would be contaminated before we have the ability to respond. The risk to public health is too high to make this a viable option. 

Heien: I would support the construction of the street so long as steps were taken to protect the area from contamination or pollution. With a proper curb and gutter we should be good and not too worried about this. 

Summerville: I think it is always important to remember that a plan, is just that- a plan- until it is put into action.  Today, if it came up for construction, the City of Laramie would need to demonstrate with peer reviewed evidence that the road construction would not put the aquifer at risk.  If they cannot do that, then no, I would not support the street construction.   I would encourage the City to reexamine that plan now and possibly in the future to see if it still an appropriately planned item or if there are other options that would make sense to preserve safe traffic patterns.   The City of Laramie should set the highest standard when it comes to aquifer protection. 

4. What do you see as the major issues affecting the city’s water supply, and how would you address them?

Glass: The most serious concern regarding the City’s water supply is, at present, the potential for contamination of the Casper Aquifer by chemical spills and accidents along the Telephone Canyon portion of I-80. The City, County, and State (as well as our representatives in Congress) should actively seek out funding and engineering expertise to prepare for such mishaps, which will be inevitable due to the advent of autonomous vehicles and proposed reductions in WYDOT funding for the removal of snow and ice from the road in winter. The City’s water rights on the Monolith Ranch and adjacent portions of the Laramie River are key to the city’s welfare and necessary to future growth and must be carefully shepherded and preserved.

Harrington: It is becoming increasingly clear that quantity of water will likely not be a limiting factor for the City of Laramie in the near future. The limit will instead be a question of quality. Pressure to develop on the eastern boundary of the City of Laramie will continue to increase and must be met with careful consideration. Development that does occur within the Aquifer Protection Overlay Zone must meet the highest standards of engineering controls to limit any potential for contamination. Another way to protect the city’s water supply is to encourage development in other areas of Laramie by dispersing city-owned amenities and investing in infrastructure that makes development viable in other areas. Finally, by taking a proactive approach to education of the residents living within the Aquifer Protection Overlay Zone, we can ensure they have the tools they need to make informed individual decisions.

Heien: I see the main issue our water supply has is water waste. Growing up here brings some focus on places which massively waste water. The biggest being the University of Wyoming. I always wondered why they would spend all this money on water that they waste on sidewalks?  

One of the council meetings I found out why. The university only pays 25 cents on the dollar for their lawn water consumption. 75% off. Much water is wasted because it is not valued by them.  

I would stop playing favorites. If they had to pay what we pay for it; the UW wouldn’t waste it. 

Summerville: Water supply is never about a single item, rather a collection of priorities.  Protection of the Casper Aquifer, water line (infrastructure) safety and timely replacement, constant review/management of the Monolith Ranch and eventual transfer of those water rights to municipal use and water planning with our community partners are all critical to safe, reliable water delivery to our resident.  We must be diligent in our continual investments in all these areas, realizing that many of these investments will not pay off until 30 or 40 years in the future.

Laramie City Council Ward Two

There are two seats up for election in Ward Two, with four candidates running for the two seats. The top two vote getters will become city councilors for four-year terms.

Currently, Ward Two is served by three councilors: Paul Weaver, who was elected in 2018 for a four-year term; Joe Shumway, who is retiring; and Jayne Pearce, who is running for re-election.

Candidates for the two seats, in alphabetical order, are: Mark Andrews, Sharon Cumbie, Tim Hale, and Jayne Pearce. Andrews and Hale did not respond to the questionnaire. Answers from Cumbie and Pearce are shown below.

1. The Aquifer Protection Overlay Zone (APOZ) lies mostly in the county, while the Casper Aquifer provides about half the drinking water for the vast majority of county residents, who live both in or near the City of Laramie. Recognizing this common interest, the Casper Aquifer Protection Plan began as a joint city-county document.

As a City Councilor, would you support returning to a unified County/City Casper Aquifer Protection Plan? Please explain your answer.

Cumbie: I think it is imperative that the City/County return to a unified Aquifer Protection Plan and that the two municipal bodies work together to protect this precious resource and to govern in a cohesive manner that ensures the maintenance of Laramie’s clean (pristine) drinking water. Some of the most vulnerable areas within the APOZ lie within the county, but our entire community depend on the aquifer for at least half of our drinking water. As elected governing agents, it is our duty to properly manage this essential resource. I have witnessed compromises made by the county commission in extending zoning to the Tumbleweed station while a significant majority of the City Council and residents of Laramie opposed allowing Tumbleweed to ride on the grandfathered status of the previous business. This situation provided the community with a clear example of how our city could potentially lose control of the clean water that is essential to our survival and well-being. I believe we must adopt a unified protection plan, incorporate current state of the science into the plan, and revise the language so that protection measures are legally enforceable.

Pearce: Yes. Having one plan is efficient and frankly necessary given 85% of Albany County’s population lives in the city.

2. There are a number of businesses in the APOZ (East Grand area) that would not be permitted under the current regulations, but that existed prior to the enactment of the APOZ.

What are your views about possible future expansions of these businesses?

Cumbie: The Tumbleweed should not have been allowed to proceed to open as a fuel station as it sits atop one of the most vulnerable areas in the APOZ. The current owners have benefitted from strong legal representation, vague language in the county protection plan that rendered protective measures unenforceable by the county attorney, and the willingness for county commissioners to capitulate to business pressure and legal threats. Any further development, such as acquisition of adjacent property for expansion of the business would exponentially increase the threat potential for contamination of Laramie’s drinking water and represents an unacceptable and dangerous risk to our community.

Pearce: This is not an easy question to answer concretely and importantly “it all depends on the type of expansion.” Also, all expansion must pass a peer reviewed SSI. So for example, if there is a request for a building expansion, a simple square footage building expansion without controversial functionality (gas, oil, chemicals, etc…) and just for office space and it passes the SSI then it is likely that a small building expansion would be okay. But, if it goes beyond that, then probably not. We must look at each expansion on a case by case bases and then determine potential consequences. We must base our decisions on sound professional peer reviewed science and on what is best for the long term health of the Casper Aquifer and the citizens of Laramie. 

 3. The current city street plan shows a future street across the APOZ near City Springs (connecting 45th Street and Boulder Drive).

Would you support construction of this street? Please explain.

Cumbie: No. I do not and would not support this action. Though I can see that establishing a road to connect 45th Street and Boulder Drive would offer great convenience to residents of east Laramie, I do not believe it is worth the risk that a road traversing the APOZ would present. Looking at the Laramie City map, I believe a road in this location would become a by-way for quick access from the north to Walmart, I-80, and Laramie High School. Additionally, I could see this road becoming a quick connection between north-east and south-east Laramie. I would expect to see extensive studies regarding the impact and potential risks, but from my current understanding of the Casper Aquifer, the APOZ, and observations of traffic patterns in Laramie, I do not see this proposal as viable.

Pearce: No, I would never support construction of this street. Building a street over the most vulnerable features of the Casper Aquifer does not reflect smart planning. Even if I was supportive of this project there is no way I could justify the cost especially when we have dirt roads in Laramie.

4. What do you see as the major issues affecting the city’s water supply, and how would you address them?

Cumbie: The MAJOR issue regarding the city’s drinking water is the ongoing and consistent protection of the nearly pristine water supply we have that currently far exceeds drinking water standards of most communities in the country. Toward this outcome, I am devoted. But, I also think the impact of population growth in the Front Range presents a major challenge to the Laramie water supply. The demand for water in our region is exceeding the current supply. The Casper Aquifer supplies more or less half the drinking water of Laramie, with the Laramie River providing the remainder. I believe we need to promote conservation of our water through sustainable practices such as xeriscaping, conservation plumbing methods, and community education. We need to combine careful and diligent protection with water conservation to ensure a healthy future for Laramie.

Pearce: Right now, the biggest and most important issue happens to be the Tumbleweed gas station. This community is walking on egg shells just hoping nothing happens. Sadly, this property is not in the city so to some extent city council hands are tied. Although, I would be very supportive of sharing the cost with Albany County for the drilling of an additional monitor well down stream of Tumbleweed.

Other issues include: a) Preparing for a spill on I-80; b) Limiting septic systems and the type of septic systems over the Casper Aquifer; c) Limiting development and the type of development; d) Limiting and securing access to vulnerable features and the city water wells; e) Continue to purchase the land when financially possible; f) Continue funding studies as the more we know the better we will be able to retain and enjoy our most valuable resource; and lastly, g) It is very important we don’t forget about issues somewhat out of our control such as drought.  

I would address them one by one and having a clear policy outlined in a new CAPP.

Laramie City Council Ward Three

There is one seat up for election in Ward Three, with two candidates running for the one seat. The top vote getter will become a city councilor for a four-year term.

Currently, Ward Three is served by three councilors: Erin O’Doherty and Bryan Shuster, who were elected in 2018 for four-year terms; and Pat Gabriel, who is running for re-election.

Candidates for the one seat, in alphabetical order, are: Pat Gabriel and Klaus Hanson. Both candidates answered the questionnaire, although Candidate Hanson supplied his answers as a single paragraph email, which is shown in response to each question.

1. The Aquifer Protection Overlay Zone (APOZ) lies mostly in the county, while the Casper Aquifer provides about half the drinking water for the vast majority of county residents, who live both in or near the City of Laramie. Recognizing this common interest, the Casper Aquifer Protection Plan began as a joint city-county document.

As a City Councilor, would you support returning to a unified County/City Casper Aquifer Protection Plan? Please explain your answer.

Gabriel: City Council and the County Commissioners discussed returning to a unified County/City CAPP at a work session September 8th. I feel it’s in the best interest to work together with the County to come up with a unified approach to protect the Aquifer.  Commissioner Gosar suggested just that at the meeting, but the two other Commissioners were hesitate to commit to moving forward with the City.  Commissioners Jones said that we can start down that road or words to that effect.  Commissioner Richardson said the devil is in the details working on a unified CAPP.  I am somewhat optimistic that the City and County can work together to protect the Aquifer and from my standpoint it’s the only way to proceed.

Hanson: I think you know my views on the aquifer protection. [Note: Candidate Hanson formerly served on the city council.] It is the most important matter of all. When we have no clean water, we might as well abandon the town. Perhaps with a more receptive county commission after the election we can even get a common policy on aquifer protection. The city aquifer protection plan includes extensive explanations as to what businesses are allowed on top of the aquifer and which are not. Existing prior businesses cannot simply be shut down without court order, would be my guess. Best way to proceed would be to negotiate with them to avoid leaching of harmful substances in to the aquifer. I would prefer a cooperative rather than a punitive stance. On 45th Street construction, I would have to hear from the experts as to what impact the planned delineation would have on the aquifer. 

2. There are a number of businesses in the APOZ (East Grand area) that would not be permitted under the current regulations, but that existed prior to the enactment of the APOZ.

What are your views about possible future expansions of these businesses?

Gabriel: Depending on what type of business would be expanded is the key question in number 2 on the survey list. We as government officials must be very careful to protect as much as possible in the APOZ.  I’m comfortable that a complete review by many would be able to make the right decision when it came to an expansion in the APOZ. Tumbleweed is a prime example of concerns when it comes to expansion.  Since the City didn’t have a say on that decision as it was located in the County, we are all on notice that any expansion of businesses in the APOZ must be carefully reviewed.

Hanson: I think you know my views on the aquifer protection. [Note: Candidate Hanson formerly served on the city council.] It is the most important matter of all. When we have no clean water, we might as well abandon the town. Perhaps with a more receptive county commission after the election we can even get a common policy on aquifer protection. The city aquifer protection plan includes extensive explanations as to what businesses are allowed on top of the aquifer and which are not. Existing prior businesses cannot simply be shut down without court order, would be my guess. Best way to proceed would be to negotiate with them to avoid leaching of harmful substances in to the aquifer. I would prefer a cooperative rather than a punitive stance. On 45th Street construction, I would have to hear from the experts as to what impact the planned delineation would have on the aquifer. 

3. The current city street plan shows a future street across the APOZ near City Springs (connecting 45th Street and Boulder Drive).

Would you support construction of this street? Please explain.

Gabriel: Construction of 45th St and Boulder Drive would be carefully reviewed to protect the APOZ.  At this point I’m not sure where the funding of the Street would come from. City Council talked about the construction when Pilot Hill was under review by the County, but City officials told us the price tag is too high at this time to consider doing anything with that area. Again, Council would take a close look at all of the impacts in the area with expert guidance from City staff.

Hanson: I think you know my views on the aquifer protection. [Note: Candidate Hanson formerly served on the city council.] It is the most important matter of all. When we have no clean water, we might as well abandon the town. Perhaps with a more receptive county commission after the election we can even get a common policy on aquifer protection. The city aquifer protection plan includes extensive explanations as to what businesses are allowed on top of the aquifer and which are not. Existing prior businesses cannot simply be shut down without court order, would be my guess. Best way to proceed would be to negotiate with them to avoid leaching of harmful substances in to the aquifer. I would prefer a cooperative rather than a punitive stance. On 45th Street construction, I would have to hear from the experts as to what impact the planned delineation would have on the aquifer. 

4. What do you see as the major issues affecting the city’s water supply, and how would you address them?

Gabriel: The major issues affecting the city’s water supply come spills from trucks on I-80, old septic systems in the County and pesticide use by residents in the APOZ. City and County officials having been working on the concerns of spills by large trucks carrying all kinds of materials on I-80 for years. We continue to investigate the best way to mitigate any possible spill in telephone canyon. WYDOT has also been a partner in this matter. I’m not sure anyone has a definitive solution to this important question, but everyone continues to work toward a reasonable solution. As for septic systems and pesticides, we need to educate residents on best practices such as enhanced septic systems and proper use of pesticides in the APOZ. We have so many educated people here in Albany County that have provided the citizens with valuable information over the years on the Casper Aquifer and proper methods to keep it safe.  I’m optimistic that as City and County officials we can continue to do the right things in order to keep our water in the best shape possible.  The AEM study that the City and County funded has brought us all new information about how the Aquifer actually functions. More study is ongoing from the information obtained which will help us all understand more about the Aquifer and thus keep it safe for generations to come. As one of nine Councilors, I feel the City is doing a great job in protecting the Aquifer.     

Hanson: I think you know my views on the aquifer protection. [Note: Candidate Hanson formerly served on the city council.] It is the most important matter of all. When we have no clean water, we might as well abandon the town. Perhaps with a more receptive county commission after the election we can even get a common policy on aquifer protection. The city aquifer protection plan includes extensive explanations as to what businesses are allowed on top of the aquifer and which are not. Existing prior businesses cannot simply be shut down without court order, would be my guess. Best way to proceed would be to negotiate with them to avoid leaching of harmful substances in to the aquifer. I would prefer a cooperative rather than a punitive stance. On 45th Street construction, I would have to hear from the experts as to what impact the planned delineation would have on the aquifer. 

The following is the letter sent to City Council candidates with questionnaire

Dear Candidate for Laramie City Council,

Albany County Clean Water Advocates is a group of local residents concerned with protecting our community drinking water supplies. We invite you to answer the following questions to help inform voters’ decisions in the 2020 election.

We plan to disseminate your responses in full via our website and other media. Our website features a video about the Casper Aquifer, and our website library at albanycountycleanwateradvocates.org contains links to documents from many sources pertaining to our community water supply.

We are sending you this questionnaire via email and a print copy. Please feel free to respond either way, although we encourage an email response to avoid misinterpreting handwriting. You may simply enter your answers in this word document and reply (document is pasted in and attached). Also, please feel free to reply if you have any questions or comments about the questionnaire. If you prefer to mail your answer, our address is P.O. Box 1753, Laramie, 82073.

Because we expect many voters will choose to vote using an absentee ballot, we respectfully request your responses by 5 pm on Monday, September 14. We understand that you are a busy person and thank you so much for your participation!

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