Suddenly, it appears that considerable danger exists to any plans for a new, sufficiently large Powell public library. According to the July 5 issue of the Powell Tribune, President …
Suddenly, it appears that considerable danger exists to any plans for a new, sufficiently large Powell public library. According to the July 5 issue of the Powell Tribune, President Stefani Hicswa of Northwest College wants at least $10 million of any new Park County capital facility sales tax to construct a new, very likely extravagant, student center on the Northwest Campus. Should that happen a new Powell public library would not be feasible or would be forced to make do with $5 million or less. It could be significantly less because the City of Cody has been running a deficit for the past two years. Furthermore, the City of Powell suffered a significant fiscal loss when an electrical substation was destroyed by fire barely a week ago.
Let us not forget that Northwest College enjoys a revenue stream, nay large river, that far exceeds the Powell public library’s fiscal support. For example, Northwest College charges each student tuition. In 2018-19, Northwest College collected $4.5 million in tuition. Fines collected for overdue books and media by the Powell public library can never, even in a million years, match Northwest College’s annual tuition revenue.
It is also important to note that in addition to the $4.5 million tuition collected from students, the State of Wyoming provided Northwest College with $13 million in 2018-19 to support operational expenses. Local appropriations and a one mill tax levy added another $3.5 million to Northwest College’s coffers in 2018-19. As if that were not enough, there is an “auxiliary fund” that brings them $5.2 million in 2018-19 plus another $1.5 million of “other income and reserves.” In sharp contrast, the Powell public library’s annual budget was 1.5 million in 2018-19.
Student population at Northwest College during the traditional fall/spring academic year appears to be 1,524 students. Powell public library serves a population of some 6,000 citizens in the city as well as many individuals who live in eastern Park County. Most important, the Powell public library is open every month of the year, and hosts an intensive set of summer activities for children and adolescents each summer.
Once upon a time, Northwest College appeared to be a very busy campus in summer. Wyoming Girls State was held on the Northwest campus for their annual summer session. Where have all the Girls gone? Casper College? The Wyoming State Band convened on the Northwest Campus each summer and delighted us all with their music and marching. I have not heard Wyoming State Band music in at least two years. The geology department of Ball State University from Indiana utilized Northwest dormitories and presumably lecture halls as well as Wyoming’s famously visible geologic history each summer. Will Ball State be here this summer? Or for that matter, will any other university geology departments utilize Northwest College facilities this summer? The new, very large, well appointed and obviously expensive Yellowstone Building sits in splendid isolation on the Northwest Campus this summer. Why? The State of Wyoming, and probably donors, constructed that building to facilitate education in any month of the year. Is Northwest College’s Mickelson Field Station, high in the Absaroka Mountains, ever utilized in summer by outside groups? It is a fabulous place for outdoor education of most any sort.
As we all know, Park County, Wyoming enjoys an amazing number of resources that attract millions of visitors each summer: Yellowstone National Park, the Shoshone National Forest, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, the Heart Mountain Museum and adjacent grounds, Old Trail Town, the Buffalo Bill Dam and Visitor Center, Homesteader Museum, and the Cody Heritage Museum. Road Scholar tours, Elder Hostel seminars, Geology Campus, bird watching and wild horse seminars might all be intrigued, inspired and induced to utilize Northwest College’s dormitories, food service facilities, lecture halls and the Mickelson Field Camp each summer. The citizens of Wyoming have created a most impressive and valuable campus at Northwest College that deserves to utilized fully all year.
Let’s stop burning daylight, get to work, use what we have, a penny tax, to build a new public library that Powell richly deserves and will be used every month of the year by a large number of citizens. Northwest College has a wonderful campus with a rich variety of resources and facilities. Student centers can wait. The Powell public library cannot!
Henry M. Yaple