Key legislators from the Wyoming House and Senate were divided this week on whether to fund a set of proposed construction projects in Laramie.
The 12 members of the Joint Appropriations Committee met this week to craft the budget bill for the upcoming 2021-2022 biennium.
With the year’s legislative session set to begin Feb. 10, lawmakers were split on chamber-lines over whether to fund the Laramie projects.
With House members outnumbering senators 7-5, the JAC narrowly voted to budget $19.2 million for a reconstruction of Slade Elementary School and $37.8 million for renovation of War Memorial Stadium’s west side stands and a replacement for Corbett Pool.
Gov. Mark Gordon had recommended denying the funding for Slade’s rebuild, which has been on hold for years.
It’s been almost six years since the Legislature appropriated $1.7 million for the designs of a rebuild for the school on the site of the old Laramie High School.
Those designs have long been essentially complete, but actual construction of the school was put on hold after Wyoming’s economic downturn began in 2015.
At UW’s request, the State Construction Department had recommended that the state provide $37.8 million, to be matched by $36.5 million in donations and other UW funds, for the renovation of War Memorial Stadium’s west side stands and a replacement of Corbett Pool.
Gov. Mark Gordon’s budget called for only $25 million from the state for those two projects, but the House’s majority on JAC was able to get the originally-asked funding into the budget bill.
UW already issued a request for proposals on Nov. 19 to hire a consulting firm to work on both projects.
The renovations of War Memorial would rebuild the west stand concessions and press box, while also creating more room for fans at their seats. The renovations would add some chair-backs and some outdoor suits.
The House majority also outvoted senators to add $12 million into the budget bill for a renovation and expansion of UW’s College of Law.
The main purpose of the renovation is to bring the college’s various clinics into the actual College of Law building.
While the college’s Defender Aid Clinic is housed in the college’s main building, most are housed in the UniWyo Federal Credit Union.
UW has planned $22 million in renovations at the college that would add about 19,000 square feet and renovate about 23,000 square feet of existing space.
The estimate for the UW College of Law construction came late enough that the funding request didn’t go through the normal vetting process in 2019, but Gordon wrote a letter in support of the project earlier this week.
One project that House and Senate members were united in not wanting to fund was a new UW Lab School, which serves both as a typical grade school for Laramie children while also providing the College of Education with a site to pilot cutting-edge teaching techniques.
The Lab School is currently housed within the College of Education building, which UW officials have contended is a significant security concern in an age when schools are expected to have “lockdown” methods to isolate school children from outside threats.
The State Construction Department had requested $2.5 million for designs of a UW Lab School rebuild, but JAC voted to reduce that appropriation to $100,000.
To coincide with other major construction efforts on the northeast edge of campus, UW’s board of trustees had asked legislators to provide $27.5 million this winter for construction of a new Lab School, but legislators on JAC have shown no interest thus far in funding that project.