Tensions rise at Casper City Council as CATC Board President speaks

CATC Board President Lou Grunewald expressed concerns about the city’s decision to take over public transportation within the time frame it has announced, and it lead to a tense exchange at Tuesday’s Casper City Council meeting.
Published: Apr. 21, 2021 at 11:58 AM CDT
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CASPER, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - At Tuesday’s Casper City Council meeting, CATC Board President Lou Grunewald approached the council during the time community members were allowed to address the council with concerns. His concerns centered around the city’s decision to separate from its contract with CATC.

Grunewald talked about some of the actions that the city has done to initiate the takeover of the system and called it a “hostile takeover, or a hostile try.”

Grunewald noted that CATC has agreements to provide for Mills and Evansville, and the city of Casper’s actions have disabled them from providing a clear look at the books for the other municipalities.

He referenced his request in a letter to the city manager and city attorney to allow CATC to have until the end of the fiscal year, so they can do “the books properly” and to “keep us (CATC) from getting a major black eye over this.”

“We’re asking that you put this thing on hold and make a transition because if it doesn’t, without all the staff and a good transfer, the clients of Casper, Wyoming are going to suffer,” said Grunewald addressing the council.

The city announced on April 7 that it would be taking over operations within 30 days.

“I’ve been on this board for 31 years. I’ve been president for the last 10,” said Grunewald as he was beginning to wrap up his time. “And I feel that this has actually been a threat almost to me because of the time I spent on this.”

“And I feel that we need to be able to speak to the city, and the city needs to speak to us in order to resolve this and bring it to a good closing,” said Grunewald. “And at this point in time, that is not going on.”

Grunewald raised the temperature in the room when he finished his time by beginning to talk about a meeting with Carter Napier, the Casper city manager, from about a month ago.

After gesturing towards Napier, he said the conversation at the meeting went by him asking, “‘If they want to run the system, why don’t the city make it a department?’”

Grunewald alleged that Napier replied that the city ‘can not afford to run CATC.’ Then, Grunewald repeated that Napier said the city couldn’t afford it and asked Napier directly whether or not he had said it.

Mayor Steve Freel interjected and asked Grunewald several times to only address himself and not ask questions directly to anyone else. Point of order was called, and Grunewald asked Freel if he would ask the city manager to answer the question.

Freel calmly responded, “No, I will not.” No questions were asked by the council, and Freel thanked Grunewald for his comments.

After the meeting ended, Freel addressed the exchange by saying, “There are specific guidelines when addressing the city council, and those need to be followed. I asked several times that he address any questions to me, and that’s how it should be. That’s all that was.”

Councilman Bruce Knell addressed what Grunewald spoke about and said, “The city is committed to providing top quality public transportation.” He understood that Grunewald is frustrated and has “a lot of respect” for Grunewald and what he had to say.

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