New agreements will allow the Sheridan College campus to significantly expand and bring potential for growth to the college and community.
On Wednesday, the Northern Wyoming Community College District Board of Trustees approved three agreements related to land and property that will increase the college campus by almost one-third and lead to opportunities in construction technology and related fields.
Two days after the Sheridan Economic and Educational Development Authority Joint Powers Board approved several agreements and exchanges, the NWCCD Board finalized the issues directly affecting the college.
The NWCCD board accepted from SEEDA five acres of mostly vacant land on Solutions Way, just east of the Sheridan College campus across Interstate 90. It also approved a separate agreement that includes Seven Pillars, LLC — which owns EMIT Technologies — granting 26 acres of additional land on Solutions Way to the NWCCD for economic development and educational purposes. Those 26 acres sit next to the five acres and include a 25,000-square-foot building that will house the Sheridan College construction technology program.
Upon approving the land grants, the board accepted a grant of the current construction technology building on North Brooks Street from Whitney Benefits. Immediately after, the board granted the property to The Hub on Smith to use as part of its homecare programs.
As part of the agreement, the college will report to the SEEDA board on a regular basis and provide updates on what is happening with the Solutions Way property for the next 10 years. The property must be used for economic and educational development of the Sheridan community.
NWCCD President Paul Young said initial conversations began in October 2018 when Seven Pillars approached the college about donating the land. That started the machinations to exchange properties of similar values and grant land between multiple entities. Young was enthused about the idea, as were the Sheridan College construction technology instructors when he presented it to them.
“They always feel like the ones that are left behind for the trades that get all the attention — the welding, the machining,” Young said. “… This is their chance to shine. It’s their chance to really put that (construction tech) program on center stage and give it the attention that it hasn’t maybe had as much of.”
The construction tech program will begin operations in its new home this fall. Young acknowledged the challenge in attracting construction tech students but said he hopes enrollment in the program can double in the near future, similar to the welding and diesel programs that recently moved into a new technical center on the main Sheridan College campus.
The 5-year-old facility on Solutions Way will allow students to construct two homes at a time indoors, something Young said could aid with the supply of affordable housing.
Young does not envision any new buildings being constructed on the property in the near future but said it is always a possibility.
“Around here, things change pretty fast,” Young said.
There will be challenges associated with the new land, the most glaring involving transportation between the main campus and Solutions Way, which are separated by a four-lane interstate. Young said there have been discussions with the Wyoming Department of Transportation about potential solutions, which could cost in the seven-figure price range. Possibilities include a box culvert for vehicles to drive under the interstate or a pedestrian bridge over the interstate.
For now, students and instructors will make the drive from Coffeen Avenue to East Brundage Lane and over to Solutions Way.
“We said, ‘Well let’s get [the property], and then we’ll figure out how to get across the road,’” Young said.
Overall, Young called the transactions a “win-win-win for our community.”
Board Chair Norleen Healy concurred.
“It’s a great addition to the college,” Healy said.
Young believes the agreement is a sign of things to come for the local business community and said the college aims to work with local manufacturing companies on different possibilities like heavy equipment training and hosting an incubator for high-tech companies.
It will also ideally help Sheridan stay out of the boom and bust nature of Wyoming’s economy.
“You will have escaped that awful, cyclical thing in Wyoming where every bust drives everybody down and people are losing their homes,” Young said. “That’s what the community is trying to escape and that’s what all these participants are trying to do.”
With approval from the NWCCD board, Sheridan College will move into its new property, potentially resulting in a significant step forward for the institution and community.
Young gave brief remarks during the end of the meeting, his last as acting president before his retirement July 1.
Young called his time at the college a great honor and accomplishment but urged a slight note of caution. Young gave the analogy of the goose that laid a golden egg every day and was eventually killed by people who wanted all the golden eggs at once.
“This little college is that golden goose, and it’s doing amazing, amazing things,” Young said. “… But I worry that people take what’s exceptional and they start taking what’s exceptional for granted, and they want to push it beyond what’s possible.”
He said all the various stakeholders want decisive action from the college on myriad topics, but the board must be diligent in its allocation of resources.
“There’s a million people that want a million things from this college, and they all want it right now,” Young said. “… There’s only so much we can do, and I think that’s going to be the challenge of the board and the college for the future, is to sort of hold onto the great excellence that we have.”
The board approved John Dick and Allen Thompson as new appointees to the Center for a Vital Community Board. Dick works at First Interstate Bank and Thompson is the Sheridan County sheriff.
The board approved Dr. Michelle Meehan as a new member of the Sheridan College Foundation Board.
Outgoing University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols stopped by the board meeting to say her goodbyes and wish Young the best. She received a standing ovation, according to NWCCD staff present.