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Teton voters pass CWC Center plan

Teton voters pass CWC Center plan

May 3, 2017 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

A special excise tax will pay for property acquisition, with funding for the building to be generated separately.

Teton County voters have agreed to buy property for a new Central Wyoming College center in Jackson using proceeds from a 1 percent Specific Purpose Excise Tax.

The decision was made during a special election Tuesday. It was the first time a CWC tax question had ever appeared on the ballot in another county.

Exact vote totals are still unofficial.

Mixed results

CWC's was one of 10 items on the SPET ballot, four of which were not approved for funding.

Wyoming Sen. Leland Christensen, R-Alta, who was supportive of the CWC project, said that in the past voters have approved the majority of SPET ballot items. This year, however, there was a SPET opposition movement based on concerns about the potential impacts of unchecked growth in Jackson on roads, businesses and housing.

In response to the opposition, CWC attempted to assure the public that the Jackson Center would not create additional growth.

Instead, Jackson Center director Susan Durfee Thulin said the project will allow the college to better serve people who already live in Teton County.

"We primary educate locals - 95 percent of our student base is local," she said.

She also noted that the site identified for the center, on Veronica Lane, is close to established mass transit lines and is in a developed area with commercial property nearby.

Durfee Thulin and other CWC employees have been working for months to educate Teton County residents about the services CWC provides to the community, as well as the need for the college to have a facility of its own.CWC ran local newspaper advertisements, posted on social media, and made presentations for service organizations including Rotary, Kiwanis and the Chamber of Commerce.

There were banners up at intersections around town and at private properties, and students offered testimonials that aired on the radio.Members of the Jackson team also attended a mixer last week to promote the project, and they made phone calls, sent out e-mails and held up signs in visible areas through voting day.

Despite their efforts, however, several precincts did not want to fund the Jackson Center: CWC failed to garner more than 50 percent approval in North Jackson, South Hoback, Kelly/Moose, Moran and Alta.

In total, however, more than 54 percent of Teton County voters on Tuesday approved the Jackson Center land purchase.

Out of almost 13,200 registered voters in Teton County, almost 6,000 cast ballots Tuesday, or about 45 percent.

Jackson Center

A design document indicates CWC's new facility in Jackson would include more than 24,300 square feet of laboratories, kitchens, classrooms and offices to serve students in culinary arts, nursing, allied health and outdoor education as well as those seeking foundational courses, adult basic education and high school equivalency, business degrees and entrepreneurial success courses, customized workforce training, dual and concurrent credit for high school students and community enrichment.

Once the building is constructed, Durfee Thulin said CWC will also be able to introduce new academic programs "in order to better support the work needs and the economy in the area."

Currently, CWC uses the Jackson Center for the Arts and other small, shared spaces scattered throughout the community that provide numerous challenges for students, from technology constraints to limited curriculum options that can delay graduation.

The lack of a central location also limits the number of people CWC can serve in Jackson. For example, Durfee Thulin said the culinary arts program can only accept 10 people at a time, but the design document indicates that CWC would be able to serve up to 100 culinary and hospitality students in the new building.

The Jackson Center request was for $3.82 million to buy property and pay for architectural and engineering designs for the center.

Private donations and another tax likely will be required for actual construction.

The total cost for the project is estimated at almost $14.6 million and could go as high as $15.5 million, even without a land purchase.

Tuesday's SPET ballot also included $17 million for St. John's Living Center, which passed, $15.33 million for a fleet maintenance facility and START bus storage, which failed, $8.3 million for town and county government employee housing at the START bus facility, which failed, $6.8 million for fire station improvements, which passed, $6.5 million for replacement of current START buses and purchase of additional START buses, which failed, $4.05 million for an affordable housing project, which failed, $2.9 million for town and county housing at the parks and recreation maintenance facility, which passed, $2.4 million for work at the county and town recreation center, which passed, and $1.5 million for pedestrian improvements in Jackson, which passed.

Each item was voted on separately and needed more than 50 percent approval to pass.

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