By Clair McFarland, General Assignment Reporter
Lawmakers are considering allowing Wyoming community colleges to launch their own state-funded construction projects costing $500,000 or less without a state commission’s approval.
House Bill 28, which cleared the legislative House Education Committee on Wednesday by a unanimous vote, would raise the funding point at which community colleges must come to the Wyoming Community College Commission for permission for state-funded construction projects.
The law now requires each college to seek commission approval for projects more than $100,000.
Bill advocates told the committee the number should be raised to cover colleges’ needs between commission meetings and to account for soaring inflationary rates.
“I think you’re probably all aware you can’t build a vestibule on a building for $100,000 any longer,” said Dr. Sandy Caldwell, executive director for the Wyoming Community College Commission.
‘Arbitrarily Too Low’
She added that the monetary threshold is “arbitrarily too low at this point.”
Caldwell referenced projects in Wyoming that needed done on a timeline – such as repurposing a classroom – that couldn’t be finished quickly because colleges were trying to group multiple projects together before asking for approval.
The commission meets and can approve project requests four times per year.
Erin Taylor, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Community College Trustees, said building costs for some projects can triple over the life of a proposed build.
“When (college trustees) are looking at these sorts of projects, especially in the last two years, these inflationary rates – they’re just killing them,” said Taylor.
The bill as it was amended during the committee meeting would become effective as soon as it passes the Legislature, if it passes.