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“If we could fix that sewer right now, we would”: School board addresses concerns over CCHS infrastructure

The Campbell County School Board in discussion at a meeting on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Julianna Landis/ County 17)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — Campbell County School Board members announced Tuesday that a company will be sent to Campbell County High School in June to determine its fate: renovation or replacement.

The school’s oldest buildings were built in 1972, and issues with infrastructure, specifically the sewer system, have plagued the school in recent years.

The announcement came following the public comment period of the Tuesday meeting, where the board was asked directly what is being done at the school following incidents of flooding from the roof and basement earlier this week.

Answering the question, and ultimately fixing the problem, is a bit complicated. While the board has control over many aspects of school-related financial decisions, it — and by extension the county — does not have the final say for the funding of large infrastructure projects.

It is the state legislature that controls what will be funded when, and board members told the audience they had been diligently working with representatives in the last few years to get the issue to the top of their list.

Planning and design money had been set aside for the issue in the last legislative session, Superintendent Ayers said. Additionally, they were anticipating money for construction that would be ready to be used for whatever action the June study would recommend.

“Patience, of course, has run its course for all of us. But I would say it is our number-one priority in terms of facilities in this district,” Ayers said.

Board members toured the school with legislators last year to examine the problems up close, Chairwoman Ochs said. Either repairing or replacing the school would be an enormous undertaking due to the sheer size of the sewer system.

“It’s huge. If you’ve looked at that sewer, like we did last year, that runs that whole length of the main hallway,” Ochs said. “And what is it, like 6 feet deep? It’s deep, and they would have to tear that whole thing apart.”

Board Vice-Chair Lisa Durgin also made clear to the audience that there had been delays to accessing promised money in the past which she said was squarely the responsibility of legislators and those at the state level.

The state has failed to work out funding models without coal lease bonus money, she said, and those issues along with statewide economic downturn in 2016 caused the issue of funding repairs to CCHS to be dropped from the legislative budget item that year.

“We’ve been strung along ever since. It’s not like this is a new problem to us; we have been addressing it the entire time. … We’re putting a full court press on because we can’t wait anymore,” Durgin said.

She and other board members also encouraged community members to contact their state reps about the issue. Click here to find your representatives using the Wyoming Legislature interactive map.