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Front Page » March 9, 2006 » Local News » Legislature allocates state funds for energy training cen...
Published 3,184 days ago

Legislature allocates state funds for energy training center project


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By TOM McCOURT
Sun Advocate reporter


Plans to implement an energy training center at the Willow Creek coal mine site are proceeding. In December 2005, the United States Department of Labor awarded CEU a $2.7 million grant to purchase the property. And last week, the Utah Legislature allocated an additional $1.1 million in state funding to subsidize the project.

The College of Eastern Utah is poised to open a regional energy training center that is expected to provide a major economic boost in Carbon County.

In December 2005, the United States Department of Labor awarded the college a $2.7 million grant to help implement the project. And last week, the Utah Legislature voted to contribute an additional $1.1 million in state revenues to subsidize the purchase of the Willow Creek mine property to house the training center.

The center should be operating by next fall and may begin some classes in spring 2006.

The college expects to train as many as 2,000 students each year in energy related jobs.

The energy training program is also expected to draw students from locations throughout the western states.

The energy industry is expanding rapidly across the nation.

According to the college, the majority of the energy related jobs in the U.S. are currently occupied by workers who will retire within the next 10 years.

As a result, Castle Valley and the nation will face the critical need for new, younger workers in every facet of the industry.

The CEU training center program has been designed to address the nationwide need for employees in the energy industry.

The training center will initially offer short-term classes and workshops on topics as diverse as equipment maintenance, workforce management and safety, explained the college.

Eventually, the program at the college will offer associate degrees in energy-related fields.

The fields of study planned for the program include the coal mining industry, oil and gas extraction, electrical power generation and transportation.

A western states energy training board was recently established as a non-profit corporation to oversee the energy training program until it is fully developed

The board represents a partnership between the college, local governments and the energy industry.

The board has been instrumental in securing the funding and government support for the program, according to local officials.

Members of the board of directors for the mining training facility celebrate funding from the state legislature to purchase land, buildings and equipment at the old Willow Creek mine in Price Canyon.

Board members include:

•Ryan Thomas, CEU president;

•Miles Nelson, Southeast Utah Applied Technology Center president;

•Susan Etzel, workforce services director;

•Carol Rogers, vocational rehabilitation director; and

•Energy industry representatives, Sam Quigley, Alex Walker, Rod Hensley, Ellis Pierce, Jerry Carlson, Rick Olsen, Dave Sorrells and Jim Felton.

Steven Burge is the interim director for the project. He is assisted by Jim Huffaker. Burge and Huffaker work at the college.

Jay Metzler, former director of San Juan's community college energy training center, has been hired as a consultant.

The board members met Tuesday to celebrate the successes of securing the funding to implement the training program at CEU.

Participants acknowledged Utah Sen. Mike Dmitrich and Rep. Brad King for the legislators' assistance in securing the state money to put the funding for the training center project over the top for the current year.

Thomas was also recognized for the college president's tireless efforts in seeing the project through.

The coal mining property consists three 8-year-old buildings on 270 acres of ground located near the mouth of Willow Creek Canyon in the canyon above Helper.

The buildings total about 38,000 square feet, with more than 40 offices in the main building.

Another of the buildings is a large, modern shop with a 50-ton crane and a high-pressure diesel wash bay.

CEU will also acquire water and gas rights along with various items of property such as forklifts, office furniture and equipment.

Foundation Coal Company made a substantial donation to the college by offering the property for such a low purchase price, pointed out Burge.

Taking into account the actual value of the property and the matching grant funds, the value of the project in its first two years will exceed $15 million, said Burge. There will also be many economic benefits to the community.

The training center will help establish the county as a hub for energy development in the intermountain region. Last year, the National Mining Association committed to establish an office in Price if the energy training center became a reality, concluded Burge.



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