University or tech school/Officials look to education as future use of WSH campus

Evanston Community Development Director Rocco O’Neill and Uinta County Commission Chair Eric South attend a commission work session meeting on the future of the Wyoming State Hospital campus. (HERALD PHOTO/Sheila McGuire)

EVANSTON — Discussion surrounding the future of the old campus of the Wyoming State Hospital continued during a work session of the Uinta County Commissioners on Tuesday, June 18.

In addition to commissioners themselves, others in attendance included county elected officials and representatives of the City of Evanston, Uinta BOCES No. 1, Western Wyoming Community College, the Evanston Historic Preservation Commission, the Wyoming Business Council and several area state legislators.

Evanston Community Development Director Rocco O’Neill began the discussion by saying it has been left up to the community to come up with a plan for the campus once the old buildings are vacated in a year or two when construction of the new facility is completed. He said looking into using the property as some type of higher education campus is the path “we’ve chosen to go down” through multiple discussions.

O’Neill said Wyoming spends huge sums of money to educate children in grades K-12, but then many of those young people leave to attend college elsewhere. He said, as he has in previous meetings, that he would like to see the state support a second four-year university in Evanston to serve the western side of the state and surrounding areas.

Although general information on the condition of the buildings on the old campus is available, O’Neill said no feasibility study to compare costs of demolition versus costs to repurpose buildings, or a combination of demolition and repurposing, has yet been done. He said moving forward with such a study will be an important step in developing a plan to take to the state legislature.

EVANSTON — Discussion surrounding the future of the old campus of the Wyoming State Hospital continued during a work session of the Uinta County Commissioners on Tuesday, June 18.

In addition to commissioners themselves, others in attendance included county elected officials and representatives of the City of Evanston, Uinta BOCES No. 1, Western Wyoming Community College, the Evanston Historic Preservation Commission, the Wyoming Business Council and several area state legislators.

Evanston Community Development Director Rocco O’Neill began the discussion by saying it has been left up to the community to come up with a plan for the campus once the old buildings are vacated in a year or two when construction of the new facility is completed. He said looking into using the property as some type of higher education campus is the path “we’ve chosen to go down” through multiple discussions.

O’Neill said Wyoming spends huge sums of money to educate children in grades K-12, but then many of those young people leave to attend college elsewhere. He said, as he has in previous meetings, that he would like to see the state support a second four-year university in Evanston to serve the western side of the state and surrounding areas.

Although general information on the condition of the buildings on the old campus is available, O’Neill said no feasibility study to compare costs of demolition versus costs to repurpose buildings, or a combination of demolition and repurposing, has yet been done. He said moving forward with such a study will be an important step in developing a plan to take to the state legislature.

In spite of the disparities in the amount discussed, everyone was in agreement that no funds had ever actually been designated for demolition or anything else. State Representative Garry Piiparinen (HD-49) said the state was already facing a structural deficit and there wasn’t any money to do anything with the campus.

State Senator Wendy Schuler (SD-15) said she thinks the county could consider instituting an additional penny tax to help fund a project because she agrees that state doesn’t have the funds to put into anything. “We might be missing the boat by not taking a look at it.”

After extensive discussion and brainstorming of ideas, the allotted time for the meeting had elapsed. O’Neill said discussions will continue in the future as community officials look to develop a clear plan.

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