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Public Gives Feedback On Campbell County Community College District Application

Catherine Wheeler

The Wyoming Community College Commission (WCCC) held two public hearings on the potential separation of a district.

The Campbell County Board of Commissioners applied to create a new community college district. The proposed district would be centered around Gillette College, which currently belongs to the Northern Wyoming Community College District. Because the district is based in Sheridan where the mills are levied, Sheridan County makes up the representation on the district's Board of Trustees.

As part of the process, the WCCC has held two public hearings: one in Gillette and one in Riverton. Many of the voices that spoke from Campbell County expressed the need for the community to have self-governance over the institution.

"We've shown time and again that we can be successful at growing our community," Gillette Mayor Louise Carter-King said at the meetings. "Having our own community college district would be a natural next step to further grow our community."

This has become a big point for the community, as when the district announced budget cuts, including athletic programs, earlier this year, many Campbell County residents and officials felt left out of the conversation and decision.

"Right now, we do not have a say in decisions that impact our local community college and programs or if we can even keep the doors open," Campbell County Board of Commissioners Chair DG Reardon said at a meeting. "We found that out the hard way when it came to the sports programs."

Reardon said while the cancellation of sports at Gillette College was a "catalyst" for the application to form a district, it's not the main focus, rather local control of the college is.

Those who challenged the application expressed concerns about financial impacts to local taxpayers and higher education funding around the state. Opponents, including representatives from Eastern Wyoming College, say that with state budget cuts and looming economic problems, now isn't the time to divide higher education funding.

"We question the timing of this application....The colleges have been given a 10 percent reduction in general funds with the possibility of another 10 percent. This is the wrong time for Campbell County to pursue a new community college district," Lesley Travers, president of Eastern Wyoming College, said.

However, Campbell County officials say that's not their goal.

The commission is in the middle of the application's 90-day review and information gathering process. The commission plans to vote on the application at its meeting on November 20. If approved, it will move the state legislature. If passed by the legislature, it would go to a vote in Campbell County.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Catherine Wheeler, at cwheel11@uwyo.edu .

Catherine Wheeler comes to Wyoming from Kansas City, Missouri. She has worked at public media stations in Missouri and on the Vox podcast "Today, Explained." Catherine graduated from Fort Lewis College with a BA in English. She recently received her master in journalism from the University of Missouri. Catherine enjoys cooking, looming, reading and the outdoors.

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