The Ford County and Dodge City Commissions lent their signatures to resolutions backing the plan to merge DCCC into FHSU.

The Dodge City and Ford County commissions approved resolutions voicing support for the proposed merging of Dodge City Community College into Fort Hays State University at separate meetings, Monday.

Citing the Kansas Board of Regents' desire for local support of the plan, DCCC Trustee Morris Reeves and development corporation director Joann Knight urged the commissions to sign off on the deal. The letters of support were not necessary, as the elected college board of trustees is the school's legal taxing and governance authority, but are seen as a signal of broad consensus.

The USD 443 board is expected to hear a similar case at its next meeting.

County Commissioner Shawn Tasset, reiterating a point he made on the night of the college board's vote, said that DCCC's constituents should have a vote. He asked Glenn Kerbs, the county's attorney who also works with the college, whether a provision for a broad vote could be included in the agreement.

Under his understanding, Kerbs said, there is no legal precedence for the kind of merger proposed. It would require enabling legislation by the Kansas Legislature.

Theoretically that legislation could include a provision for a county-wide vote, Kerbs said, but "I don't think there's any plan to include that in the legislation and if there is I'm not aware of it."

"I'm not implying it needs to be done before we put our hand to a letter of support," Tasset said, "but to me, the people who own this college and are paying the bills, … the possibility of that going completely through and them not having a say themselves at the poll, myself, I find that disturbing. I think that's not right."

Time for a vote would be limited, Kerbs said, as the process is advancing to the next stage and the Board of Regents is expected to hear more detailed arguments for the plan during its May meeting. Planners hope to receive a budget request to send to the Legislature, which would have to approve the particular details of the plan.

The college's board retaining the ability to pull out from the deal gave him reassurance, Tasset said, as long as that element of the proposal stays in place.

"It's in the plan," Reeves said. 

County Chairman Chris Boys called the plan "the most exciting thing we're doing right now."

The resolution passed with Commissioner Danny Gillum abstaining, as he is an employee of the college.

About an hour later, the city also approved the resolution with a unanimous vote without discussion.

"As an educator myself, I think this is a great thing for Dodge City, but some people are a little bit apprehensive," City Commission Joyce Warshaw said. She encouraged residents to reach out to Knight and Reeves, and the rest of the Board of Trustees if they had questions.

"This is a process that'll take at least a year before we get to a final operating agreement between the Board of Regents and the Board of Trustees," Reeves said.

Earlier, planners have said they hope the issue receives its enabling legislation during the legislative session next year, perhaps with funding set aside as early as the fiscal year starting on July 1, 2015.