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CHEYENNE - University of Wyoming trustees have allocated $3.5 million to hasten the start of design work on a facility that will contain one of the world's fastest supercomputers.

The proposed supercomputer near Cheyenne would be used in part to model the Earth's climate.

Trustees approved the funding without debate Friday after Rick Miller, the university's vice president for government, community and legal affairs, briefed them on why early funding would speed up the National Center for Atmospheric Research facility.

Miller said the project - at the moment - is held up by a "chicken-and-egg" situation.

He said the National Science Foundation won't approve funding for the project until the plans are done. At the same time, the Wyoming Legislature, which convenes in January, won't allocate $20 million in state funding for the project before it gets the foundation's approval.

Miller told trustees that the university can enable Boulder, Colo.-based NCAR to get started on the architectural and engineering work by providing funding from the university budget.

Otherwise, everyone would have to wait for funding from the Legislature.

"We could wait until the legislative session happens, present it to the Legislature and say, 'You need to free up some money so we can pursue this.' That'd be great. They'd say, hopefully, yes, and then in March we'd start," Miller said. "Well, we'd just have lost four months."

Funds in hand, NCAR will now be able to open the design process for bids. Miller said the Legislature can reimburse the university later.

Bob Jensen, CEO of the Wyoming Business Council, said construction could begin as soon as January 2010.

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"That's just a guess. Everything is still up in the air a little bit still, not in terms of whether it will happen, but when it will happen," Jensen said.

"Our money is right there and I think their money is there, too. It's just a matter of the process."

The $60 million project is expected to bring as many as 50 high-paying jobs to Cheyenne.

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