The Senate Education Committee approved a bill that would set the stage for Gillette College to become an independent community college district.
The bill was sent to the Senate Floor with the understanding that Sheridan Sen. Bo Biteman and Gillette Sen. Jeff Wasserburger will bring an amendment that would address financial concerns expressed by the Northern Wyoming Community College District due to the possible split.
Gillette officials testified that separating from the district would let the community address their own unique economic concerns. Campbell County Commissioner Rusty Bell told the committee that it's important that they have a college that meets their needs. He said a healthy Gillette helps the entire state.
"A vibrant, independent community college in Gillette that makes our own decisions really is what's best for Campbell County, and it's certainly what's best for Wyoming," said Bell.
But Cheyenne Sen. Affie Ellis noted that the issue rose in earnest when the college district eliminated sports teams.
"I know we want to call it a berth of a new college, but it's an ugly a divorce as I've ever seen," said Ellis.
If the legislature approves the bill, Campbell County residents would have to approve a ballot issue. Wasserburger said that such efforts have failed in the past.
"The toughest sale on this bill will be the people of Campbell County., Iit's not going to be an easy issue and we are going to have to campaign extremely hard to get this to pass."
The bill now moves to the Senate floor.