WRIGHT — Many southern Campbell County residents say they like some aspects of splitting off and forming their own county — even as they acknowledge that is unlikely.
The topic comes up alongside measures that would benefit Wright residents, such as a $2.5 million recreation center sought by Wright officials last year. Voters defeated a proposal to fund the center and other projects with a countywide half-cent sales tax.
"People talk about a lot of things and I'm still waiting for it to happen," said Liz Emmons, co-owner of The Wright Slice and a town resident for a decade.
She and business partner Donna Egbert said it would be nice to see the money from the area's vast coal mines stay in the town.
"If those mines shut down, Wright won't be here," Egbert said. "If they shut down, Gillette will be here. More funding could permit some economic development projects to better sustain the community decades down the road."
Splitting off would also provide cause to form a new school district. Unlike students in Gillette, Wright students don't have advanced placement or dual-enrollment college classes.
But Wright High School Principal Charles Auzqui said splitting off might not be the answer.
"The lack of some student opportunities are because of distance, scheduling and staffing, not necessarily a school board issue," Auzqui said.
Also, splitting would require new training costs, supplies and staffing. And because the vast majority of Wright residents work for the mines, finding enough capable people to continue the services might prove difficult.
Sen. John Hines, R-Gillette, said that rather than secession, maybe it's time to consider consolidation. "The more entities you have, the more money you have to spend for administration and government," he said.
"Instead of more counties, maybe we should combine some. There are some counties that don't have enough tax base to barely get the basics done."
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