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Plan would put housing for 24 CWC students at Sinks Canyon site

Jul 20, 2012 - By Joshua Scheer, Staff Writer

The Central Wyoming College Board of Trustees authorized advancement of an adjusted housing project that would put 24 beds at the college's Sinks Canyon Center.

In a 5-2 vote, the board authorized administration to begin the design phase of a 72-bed housing project, prepare for competitive bids, obtain financing through revenue bonds and seek authorization from the Wyoming Community College Commission, if necessary.

The authorization included a split design, which would put 24 of the 72 rooms in Sinks Canyon and the rest in Riverton.

Trustees Frank Welty and Judy Pedersen voted against the motion.

"In 2007, the college received authorization from the College Commission and in 2008 from the Legislature to build 72 beds of student housing," states a memo in the board's meeting packet.

However, the authorization was for all 72 rooms to be at the Riverton campus.

Associate vice president for administrative services Ron Granger said the housing at Sinks Canyon would be for the outdoor education program that is moving to that location. Granger said 90 percent of the program's students are from out of state.

"It makes sense to have housing there," he said.

However, the board memo states that there is confusion with the commission as to whether the original 72-bed project could be split into two separate locations.

"We initially were told it would be no problem," president Jo Anne McFarland said. "It now appears we will have to make the request for separating it into two locations."

She said it was unknown whether the college would have to get additional approval from the Legislature.

"We certainly do not view the request as a new request, but rather a variation of the original request," she added.

Welty and Pedersen questioned the timing and the necessity for new housing, and Pedersen asked staff for details about the outdoor education program.

Vice president for academic services Jason Wood said there were currently 75 students enrolled in the program. He said that with the National Outdoor Leadership School moving some of its courses away from CWC's center, it would free up the property for more of the college's own courses.

"The students are extremely eager to have their education take place at the Sinks Canyon Center," Wood said.

He added that some, after their first semester on campus in Riverton, have sought housing in Lander to be closer to their program.

Pedersen then asked what jobs the students can get and how much money they make.

Wood said students go on to become river guides, mountain guides and first responders.

"A lot of it is philosophy," he said.

Welty asked if the college was "under the rug" building a "full-service campus in Lander."

"We have no intention whatsoever of building a full-service campus only 24 miles away from our main campus," McFarland answered.

"What we are looking to accomplish is to capitalize on a specific location. Lander has the most gorgeous piece of real estate in Sinks Canyon."

Welty said he'd prefer the college hold off on the design phase as it is uncertain whether the commission would allow the project to be divided.

Granger said doing the design is "not a super big cost." He said the new housing at both campuses would have a similar design, with Sinks Canyon's being more rustic looking on the outside.

Welty also asked if additional maintenance costs had been figured into the budget, and Granger said they were.

He said revenue bonds would pay for the buildings. This means money brought in through the new housing would be used to pay back bonds issued for the project.

The college will approach the commission about dividing the project during the commission's August meeting.

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Central Wyoming College