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The Powell Community

Town Incorporated: 1909
City Incorporated: 1964
Population 2010: 6314
Elevation: 4365

 

Contact Information

History

The history of the Powell area begins before the arrival of the white man in a time when the area was home to the Crow, Blackfeet and Shoshone Indians, noted by the many Indian names of landmarks, rivers, streets, and towns. Frontiersman John Colter made the first recorded entry into the valley in the early 1800’s returning to a trading post on the Yellowstone from Indian winter camps. In the late 1870’s the first reported herd of cattle was moved into the Powell Valley from Oregon. In 1888, the U.S. Senate had the USGS study the feasibility of irrigating arid lands by using dams, canals, and hydraulic works. The area around Powell became part of this development with the authorization of the Shoshone Project and Buffalo Bill Dam on the Shoshone River in 1904 - one of the first three projects authorized in the U.S. by the Bureau of Reclamation. Work began on the dam and canal projects, with Camp Colter being set up near the present townsite to serve as headquarters and tent camp for the several hundred men working on the Shoshone and Garland Canal projects. Excavation work began on Buffalo Bill Dam in September of 1907, and water from the Garland Canal became available for settlers in June of 1908. With the coming of settlers, determination was a large part of the makeup of these homesteaders who settled the Powell Valley, homesteading began and agriculture became the driving economic force with the availability of water for the land. They transformed a portion of the valley that was mostly sagebrush flats into irrigated farm ground. With the completion of the project, the camp became the logical site for a town. However, because the name Colter had already been used for a railroad siding, a search began to name the new town. The name Powell came from Major John Wesley Powell, early day explorer, conservationist, and head of the Reclamation/Geodetic Service at the time of consideration of the Shoshone Project. Major Powell never explored the Powell flats given his name. The first town lots for Powell were put on the auction block in May of 1909 and the town grew. The first action to incorporate the town came in 1909 and it was incorporated into Big Horn County in 1910. In 1911, Powell became part of the newly organized Park County. Since that time, more land has been irrigated for farming, cattle ranching followed, and an oil industry boomed and declined in Elk Basin. Agricultural products from the Shoshone Irrigation Project are widely distributed, and include beans, barley, sugar beets, corn, alfalfa, and other forage and seed crops grown under irrigation in this originally dry area. Powell became a business community of approximately 6,000 serving a large agricultural area. From zero dollars valuation to millions of dollars, Powell has grown into a community of progress, with a future ahead of it, and a past rich in achievement.

 

Powell, Wyoming

The City of Powell is a community located in the northwest corner of Wyoming, 75 miles east of Yellowstone National Park and 98 miles south of Billings, Montana. Lying between the Big Horn Mountains on the east and the Absaroka Range on the west, clear blue skies, clean air, a temperate climate, and loads of sunshine make the Powell Valley a wonderfully refreshing place to live.

 

Powell is recognized as a progressive community and was designated an All America City in 1994. A small town atmosphere, quality of life, old-fashioned values, a can-do spirit, and friendly people are a way of life in the Powell community.

 

Powell has a diverse commercial, industrial, educational, historical museum and agricultural/ ranching based economy with dedicated, hard-working people with strong work ethics. Superior educational opportunities abound with excellent schools and an outstanding two-year college. Excellent health care facilities, recreational opportunities, retirement living, cultural events, shopping, fine dining, and modern community and public services all provide for a high quality of life for our residents.


City Government

Powell has a Mayor/Council – City Administrator form of government. The legislative body of Powell consists of a Mayor elected at large, with six council members, two elected from each of the three City wards. The Mayor appoints (with Council concurrence) the City Administrator, City Attorney, Municipal Judge, and members of boards and commissions.

 

City Structure

The City consists of ten departments under the direction of the City Administrator - Police, Administration & City Clerk, Finance, Engineering/Building, Electrical, Information Technology, Water/Wastewater, Parks, Sanitation/Public Health, and Streets.

 

Climate

Powell Valley has a high desert climate, located in a nearly snow-free valley between two mountain ranges with mild winters and warm, dry summers. Snow on the ground is a rare treat and rain is scarce. Annual precipitation (total rain and snow) averages just 5.83 inches a year. Powell winters run about 25 degrees warmer than Chicago winters. Summer temperature ranges run anywhere from the 80’s to 100’s. With the exception of irrigated farm ground, the valley is covered with sagebrush and desert like vegetation.

 

 

 

Message from the Mayor

 

   

I am rightfully taking a little teasing for not writing my column Mayors Notes.  Following a busy election season, I started to write the column a few times and failed

to finish the task. So, third time’s a charm.

 

January brought one new face to Powell City Council and we were excited to swear Steve Lensegrav in and have him begin getting up to speed on city business.

 

Meanwhile, the city staff are keeping up with the regular chores like sanding roads, clearing snow, fixing water line breaks… ouch, February was cold! Lots of preparation for the summer season is getting covered as well including important equipment maintenance and repairs, rebuilding water meters, a small remodel to the electric department, refinishing picnic tables and much more. The administrative team is also busy preparing the next fiscal year budget; it’s not a fun chore and it commands a lot of attention to detail.

 

Of course, a few other tasks are hogging time and we couldn’t be more excited about them. The past work of visionaries who developed Water Tower West is steadily paying off for Powell as businesses build in this location and contribute to our economy.

 

The new hotel and convention center is moving forward with planning and coordination from both state and the local stakeholders. The project is a productive mix of public and private dollars to benefit our community in the future. Recently, a large convention committee toured the Park County Fairgrounds looking for a 2020 or 2021 meeting venue. The hotel will play a big part in their decision to gather in Powell. Fingers crossed, but it’s exciting to see community efforts leading to potential events that will fit well in Powell.

 

Club Dauntless is another big happening that will have a major and lasting impact on the health and welfare of Powell. I asked to be the first member when the club opens, so I guess my New Year’s resolution can wait until 2020. Seriously, we should all love it when private ventures invest in our community.

 

Your one cent sales tax dollars are at work as we renovate several blocks of Absaroka Street. The contractor is scheduled to begin construction in early April. The city is working hard to keep homeowners on the street informed of activity and we are asking for everyone’s patience and cooperation as the road will be closed intermittently. Please use care and planning while driving in the area and try to route around Absaroka Street as much as possible until completion. Most importantly, thank you for investing in the future of Powell!

 

The final major task we are focused on is finding the right individual to fill the large shoes soon to be vacated by our longtime and talented city administrator, Zane Logan, who is retiring in June.  A committee is currently involved in the interview process and will share information as appropriate.  I want to thank Zane for giving the City of Powell many years of quality work, as well as the necessary time to plan a smooth transition.

 

I promise warmer weather will come, so we can soon talk about street sweeping, ballfield striping, grass cutting and fishing derbies. I would love to enjoy some sunshine and watch soccer in the parks!

 

John Wetzel

Mayor

City of Powell

 

jwetzel@cityofpowell.com

John Wetzel

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