Committee drafts bill for separate Gillette College

A select committee has started work on a bill that would potentially clear the way for the creation of a community college district for Gillette College.

Gillette College was created in 1969 as part of the Northern Wyoming Community College District, which includes Sheridan College and Sheridan College’s campus in Johnson County, but a number of Campbell County residents say it’s time for Gillette College to separate.

Among proponents of separating Gillette from the Northern Wyoming college district is Campbell County Commissioner Rusty Bell who, in past interviews with Sheridan Media, has said the separation needs to happen not only for Gillette and Campbell County but for the state of Wyoming.

Bell said a big issue is that decisions for and about Gillette College are made by a board of trustees whose members live in Sheridan County and are elected solely by Sheridan County voters. What that means, he said, is that decisions about Gillette College are being made entirely by people who live in another county, including what programs can be offered at Gillette College and even whether Gillette College could continue to exist.

Bell estimated as many as 50 to 60 people attended a listening session held by the Wyoming Community College Commission in Gillette earlier this month to gather public comments on the proposal that Gillette separate from the Northern Wyoming college district. And the majority of those attending, Bell said, favored the separation.

Among issues being considered by the select committee is that of taxes.

Under current Wyoming law, a county must levy a tax of four mills in order to receive state funding for a community college district. But committee members are uncertain whether the tax is required to create the district itself, or how that would affect future state funding during the accreditation process.

The state college commission is expected to decide in November whether to recommend that Gillette College be made independent of the Northern Wyoming Community College District. If that happens, the matter will go before Wyoming legislators in their session next year.

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