Heated discussions about the location of the new Munger Mountain Elementary School continued Wednesday at the Teton County School District No. 1 trustees meeting.
To clarify past decisions, Chief Operating Officer Brad Barker talked the school board through a detailed history of the Munger Mountain process to “put concerns and complaints to rest regarding the land search.”
Barker highlighted enrollment growth in the district nine out of the past 10 years, when conversations regarding the Comprehensive Plan were documented and discussions held with the Wyoming Department of Transportation about sewer and underpass plans.
“Connecting to the sewer line is the best use of taxpayer money,” Barker said.
The Town Council is set to vote on the connection at a meeting scheduled for 3 p.m. July 18.
Barker also clarified the land selection process, stating once again that the district did not violate any Wyoming statutes and did receive the necessary public input starting at the first design coordination meeting on Feb. 12.
“I think it’s unfortunate, and unfair, that people have tried to indirectly blame the Town Council for their role in the site selection,” Barker said. “I would hope the public record can be corrected on that so that folks don’t unduly blame the Town Council. That was a decision by this board.”
Barker reiterated that with approximately $917 million identified by the University of Wyoming in state school capital construction and facilities upgrades, the district can’t afford to step out of line for the construction of the new elementary school.
Former Wyoming state Rep. Pete Jorgensen, who wrote a column expressing his views on the location selection in the June 29 issue of the Jackson Hole News&Guide, was having none of it.
“I’m not trying to be in a cage with you, folks,” Jorgensen said at the beginning of the public comment portion of the meeting. “I just feel like I have very good reasons to challenge the location of this.”
Protesting his three-minute allotted time to speak, he said, “Mr. Barker was good at taking up 30 minutes, and although I would like 30 minutes to refute, I’ll try to keep it under.”
Jorgensen raised concerns about the location of the Munger Mountain site, saying that if the school district needs to build a second elementary school, even cheaper land will be needed.
“I don’t know how far south you’ll have to go for that,” he said.
He also repeated his accusation of a statute violation.
Jorgensen closed with an opinion regarding the future development in the valley.
“If this is adopted, it’s like a canary in the gold mine,” he said. “Anyone who wants to develop anywhere will point out that the Comprehensive Plan isn’t being enforced here,” he said.
After Jorgensen’s time was up and a “0.00” flashed on the screen, public comment moved to other topics.
When Jorgensen attempted to interject clarifications after public comment was finished, Chairwoman Patricia Russell repeatedly rapped her gavel in an effort to keep the meeting on track and told him his time to speak was over.
“We are done with public comment,” she said multiple times.
Jorgensen left shortly thereafter.
“People are running around saying we could’ve put [the school] there, we could’ve put it there,” Russell said, referring to site selection of a second elementary school. “I’d like to see those faces in line come October.”