With a bill signed by state legislators Aug. 25, Gila County moves one step closer to forming its own community college district.
"We've been paying out roughly $1 million each year to other community colleges around the state, mainly to Mesa Community College," said Gila County District 1 Supervisor Ron Christensen. "What this bill allows for is Gila County to put to the vote of the people a provisional college district. In about two years, we'll be doing that."
Christensen said this proposal has been in the works for about a decade. Now that it's approved, Gila County will be able to form an independent district, governed by a county board of directors.
"(Eastern Arizona College) is who we're contracted through, and will probably continue to contract through," he said. "But this does open the door for us to contract for services from other colleges in the state."
That independence also allows the county to "move away from the more crafty courses," the supervisor said, and offer more academic classes.
"I think this will be a great opportunity for our younger people, and older students too," he said, "but it will also be a boost economically to the area. If anybody doesn't believe that, just look at what NAU has done for Flagstaff.
"This is a real positive thing."