Three hours before the Legislature’s midnight deadline to adjourn its session, delegates in the House and Senate reached a final deal Wednesday night on House Bill 293, the legislation that’s promised to spur more than $300 million of new dormitories on the University of Wyoming’s campus.
The bill now heads to Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk.
To jump start the construction, the bill includes a $34 million loan for the university to defease current bond debt. UW will also receive another $15 million loan to pay for initial construction costs.
The original bill included a $88 million loan to the university, but the Senate whittled that down to $88 million before legislators “split the baby in half,” as Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne, put it.
The Senate had also amended the bill to change the Legislature-run task force that was set to oversee construction into one run by the university.
Under Wednesday’s agreement, UW will still run the task force but three members of the Legislature will still be involved.
After Senate amendments, the task force was set to include Laramie City Manger Janine Jordan and a Laramie representative appointed by Mayor Joe Shumway.
The final deal removes Jordan from the task force after House members suggested they only wanted elected officials of Laramie to be on the task force.
Shumway or another member of the Laramie City Council is expected to sit on the task force.
When House Speaker Steve Harshman explained the Senate amendments to House members Tuesday, he said the Senate had added Jordan to the task force for “some unknown reason.”
However, Harshman was aware of Jordan’s concerns with some aspects of the bill and was present when she testified to the House Appropriations Committee about the need for city staff to be represented on the task force.
Harshman was present when Jordan and fire chief Dan Johnson expressed concern about the enormous impacts to infrastructure and emergency response if UW attempted to use the construction of new dorms to seek a closure of 15th Street.
The Wednesday agreement also removes the $3.5 million in grants for the city of Laramie to use to mitigate traffic impacts caused by the construction. The final bill does include $300,000 for the city to conduct a traffic study.