Higher education won Tuesday night.
Thanks to Proposition 3 passing on the specific purpose excise tax ballot, Central Wyoming College earned funds to purchase land on Veronica Lane and to pay for architecture and engineering plans for a freestanding Jackson campus.
The vote wasn’t a blowout but wasn’t close enough to be exciting: 3,189 votes for, 2,665 against. That’s a 54.5 to 45.5 percent vote.
Central Wyoming College President Brad Tyndall released a statement following the results.
“Thanks to the voters of this community, CWC-Jackson will now be able to expand and improve our programming to better meet the needs of Teton County residents,” he wrote. “Today’s vote shows the commitment Teton County has to higher education and to helping locals advance their careers and improve their lives.”
CWC administrators say the school now lacks space, which limits the number of students and delays graduation for the students who are enrolled. It is based in the Center for the Arts and borrows space in a variety of commercial kitchens around town.
The new center will have 12,000 square feet of classrooms, science labs, offices and a commercial kitchen. CWC estimates 200 additional students will attend the new center.
Passing the SPET request wasn’t a sure thing.
The executive director of CWC-Jackson, Susan Durfee Thulin, wasn’t sure if the result was a surprise: “That’s hard to answer,” she said.
“Everyone I talked to was for the college, but I’m also aware that there were a lot of concerns out there,” she said. “I just needed to see the numbers on the screen.”
The $3.82 million is lower than the original request. Construction costs will be paid through a private philanthropy campaign, and operation and maintenance costs will be covered through CWC in Riverton and state funding.
Thulin said she’s excited for steps to be taken to complete the purchase of the land and get the architectural and engineering aspects of the project going. She believes the college’s expanded programs will be a stabilizing force for the local economy.
“For CWC in the future, it instills a lot of confidence that we are and we will continue to serve the needs of the community in education,” she said.
The students, Thulin acknowledged, were a driving force to success.
“Our students were so excited about this campaign,” she said. “It was really moving. But to be able to connect with people outside of our students who were passionate about education was also crucial.”
The center could open by the spring of 2019.