Jan 27, 2015

Work on Trapper Rodeo Arena continues; students allowed in

Work to address fire code issues in Northwest College’s Trapper Rodeo Arena has begun, and the facility opened to students in the NWC rodeo program on Friday. However, the building, off of Road 2AB, remains closed to the public until the work is completed.

Rodeo practice starts in February, NWC President Stefani Hicswa said, and she hopes to have the code violations corrected by then.

At Hicswa’s request, the Northwest College Board of Trustees, during its Jan. 13 meeting, approved spending up to $140,000 from the college’s emergency repair contingency fund to correct the problems. (That fund contained $700,000, she said.)

The Northwest College Trapper Rodeo Arena remains closed to the public until fire code safety violations have been corrected. Work to correct the violations is proceeding, with NWC rodeo program participants now allowed inside. Photo by Ilene Olson

Prior to the board’s vote, employees did what they could to address simple problems and identify corrections needed for more complicated issues and the cost of needed changes and equipment.

Hicswa made the decision to close the facility Dec. 19 after an inspection by the Wyoming Fire Marshal’s office found several fire code violations.

“I told the maintenance crew before Christmas that they could spend up to $10,000, but the rest of it had to wait” for the board’s approval, Hicswa said.

Trustee Jim Vogt of Powell asked why the problems weren’t found before.

“When we purchased the building, we were led to believe it was up to snuff,” Vogt said.

Hicswa noted that she wasn’t here then, “but it could be due to the fact that it was private facility and now is a public facility, with different standards,” she said.

“When we purchased the building, we were led to believe it was up to snuff,” said NWC trustee Jim Vogt.

Trustee Mark Westerhold of Cody was president of the board at the time of the building’s purchase.

“I asked that at board meetings, if they had done all inspections, and was assured they had been done,” Westerhold said. “I think you’re right, it’s a difference between private and public. I don’t think they ever thought about that. It was in some disrepair, and we knew about that.”

Many of the maintenance and repair needs at the facility have been completed over the past two years by welding students, under the direction of welding instructor Bill Johnson. That work included building new metal barns and fences, putting water tanks in horse pens. The arrangement benefited both the students and the college, with the students receiving internship experience and pay, and the college saving thousands of dollars. But, until this month’s inspection, no one saw the fire safety problems coming.

Hicswa said the inspection was routinely scheduled and was not specially ordered. Hicswa said Rodeo Director Del Nose has been very responsive, as has NWC Plant Manager Dave Plute.

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