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Groundbreaking starts building process for health /science center
Central Wyoming College officials, government leaders, building planners and other dignitaries participated in Thursday's formal groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Health/Science Center on the Riverton campus. Photo by Wayne Nicholls

Groundbreaking starts building process for health/science center

May 13, 2012 - By Joshua Scheer, Staff Writer

After what Central Wyoming College president Jo Anne McFarland said has been a five-year process, the community college broke ground Thursday afternoon on its health and science center.

McFarland, in her opening remarks to a crowd of more than 50 at the edge of the east parking lot, thanked everyone who had been involved with the project and for getting to the "long-awaited groundbreaking."

She said all of the work was not just for the facility but for students.

"We believe this building will increase our capability to support students," McFarland said.

She was the first of 10 speakers who addressed the crowd during the ceremony, which lasted for about half an hour.

Voters in November 2010 approved an $11.5 million bond initiative that set the ball rolling.

McFarland led a round of applause directed at the Fremont County voters who approved the initiative, thanking them for taking a "huge leap of faith and investing in our future."

During the 2011 state legislative session, another $6.5 million in matching funds was allotted for the center.

"Certainly the state Legislature played a big role in bringing state matching money," McFarland said.

Rep. Dave Miller, R-Riverton, spoke later in the ceremony about the state's role.

"It's been a battle to get here," he said. "It's hard to pry money out of (the capital.)"

Miller said it wasn't his efforts that persuaded his fellow lawmakers to approve the matching funds. He said what did the trick was that voters had already shown their approval of the project.

"How sweet this day is," CWC trustee Roger Gose said. "It's all good. It's all good."

Gose, who was chairman of the board of rrustees during the bond initiative, thanked all who helped with the political action committee.

He closed by quoting Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Fremont County Commis-sioner Dennis Christensen said he saw the project in its infancy when he was on CWC's board of trustees and now gets to watch as it nears finality.

"I want to say thank you to the folks in Fremont County," he said.

He credited the success of beginning construction to the "positive can-do attitude" of those involved.

"It takes people with a vision and a drive to do this," Christensen said.

Riverton Mayor Ron Warpness called Thursday a "red-letter day."

He likened Riverton to a gemstone and all of its positive elements, such Main Street and the water treatment plant, as cuts that make the stone shine more beautifully.

"We're here today to make another cut on this gemstone," Warpness said.

Riverton Memorial Hospital CEO Chris Smolik spoke of the necessity for more nurses, noting that health care is a job sector that will continue to grow. He called the CWC nursing school an asset to the community.

CWC director of nursing Kathy Wells said that while the nursing field has changed dramatically in recent decades, education for nurses hasn't.

The health and science center, she said, will help the college bridge that disconnect.

"Let the revolution begin," Wells exclaimed.

Nursing graduate Elizabeth Peil and science graduate Kelli Niemeyer spoke to the need for the new space.

"The classrooms were pretty crowded as well as the labs," Peil said.

Assistant professor of biology and microbiology Steve McAllister also thanked voters for the support.

When speakers finished, they all donned hard hats and grabbed shovels as both first- and second-year nursing students gathered behind them.

Together they drove the shovels into a mound of dirt and turned it over.

Full construction will begin next week, with completion scheduled for fall 2013.