The Albany County Commissioners voted to approve a letter of support to commit to exploring local funding options to support Laramie County Community College's assumption of WyoTech operations and instructional buildings during a special meeting on Friday.

Resolution No. 2018-009, presented to the County Commissioners by County Attorney Peggy Trent, also states that the commissioners support the passage of the General Government Appropriations bill for the biennium, which would include a $5,000,000 appropriation for community college operation of automotive technology trade school grant or loan.

The commissioners held a public comment session at the beginning of the meeting, during which a number of Laramie residents and business owners turned out to vouch for WyoTech and to share why they thought it was an important asset to the community. Many of the commenters said that WyoTech is important for the local economy, as well as educational options and opportunities for young people.

Dona Coffey, a member of the Albany County School District No. 1 School Board, said WyoTech was a valuable educational aspect of Laramie.

“If we lose Wyotech, that will be one less thing that we have as an educational opportunity for our people,” Coffey said. “I also believe the only error we could possibly make is if we didn’t try.”

WyoTech Campus President Caleb Perriton addressed the commissioners at the meeting as well, saying that he hopes the local community can help WyoTech continue providing valuable skills to the community.

“Here’s an opportunity to change the education approach for the state of Wyoming, not to serve just Albany County, but to have Albany County recognized as a destination, once again, for students, not only in higher education but also in trades education,” Perriton said.

Perrition said that WyoTech helps to address a skills gap in the country and as Wyoming and Albany County is looking to diversify its economy, WyoTech shouldn’t be overlooked.

“The opportunity that the LCCC proposal offers is a very affordable career in technical education. And we could certainly serve the needs of our citizens statewide first and that’s why we’re before the public asking for public funds,” Perriton said.

The commissioners said they recognize that WyoTech is a valuable to the community, however the county’s budget cannot support the prospectus, which is why the county will have to explore other funding options for the LCCC plan.

Commissioner Heber Richardson said approving the letter of support will signal to the state legislature where the county is at.

Commissioner Tim Chesnut said he received a barrage of emails in support of the LCCC plan, but also said that many residents suggested supporting the WyoTech plan and not competing the Pilot Peak land purchase the county is working towards. Chesnut said that not completing the land purchase would not make the county more able to support the WyoTech prospectus.

“First of all, I don’t want people to think that the city or the county are going to be able to support this out of our budget,” Chesnut said. “Our budgets are not big enough to support this, it will have to come from the people of Albany County.”

Chesnut said the money for the land deal will have to come from a completely different source of funding, such as fundraising.

“They’re two separate issues,” Chesnut said. “They’re not connected at all.”

In the prospectus, LCCC is requesting the 2018 Legislature appropriate $8,465,026 in one-time, exception budget funding to the Wyoming County Community College to support the college's assumption of WyoTech operations over the next four years. It also will require a stable stream of local funding and recommended Albany County and the City of Laramie provide biennial funding in the amount of at least $1,494,636 by no later than July 2, 2021.