orr hall

Under the new dormitories plan, Orr Hall, as seen on Wednesday, is one of the few existing dorms that is not expected to be demolished.

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.

(2) comments

Brett Glass

Harshman's excuse for excluding the Laramie City Manager is lame. He'll tolerate the presence of unelected UW staff, but not a City Manager who is hired directly by the elected City Council? The real reason Harshman wants to exclude the City Manager is that he wants UW to be able to run roughshod over local residents and neighborhoods without any accountability for its actions.

HB0293 was railroaded through the Legislature. It was introduced at the last minute, never saw discussion in an interim committee where members of the public could comment, and passed late at night - again, without any opportunity for the public to review a final version - by a sleepy Senate that really just wanted to go home. This bill deserves the Governor's veto.

clipper

HB293 proves unequivocally that there is no need for tax reform or a search for other sources of state revenues as there is an overabundance of funds.

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