Future of Armory under contention

Suggestions abound for possible use

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Storing ambulances, providing a setting for educational programs or becoming a recreation center are all possible futures for the National Guard Armory, but for now it will continue being a youth care center.

Moffat County officials held a public meeting Tuesday to talk about the future of the Armory, which houses the Moffat County Youth Care Center and what the community thinks would be the best use of the facility.

The county leases the facility for $1, a contract signed when the National Guard decided to close down operations in Craig. It was remodeled to house a county-run youth care center, but the financial drain on county coffers forced officials to look at other options. They have awarded a contract to Shiloh Homes to run a private youth care center and are now wondering what to do with the building.

"At some point in the future, we might use this facility differently than we do now, we might not." Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said. "We hope to begin the process to develop a plan that the community is a part of and approves of."

County Administrative Assistant Debra Murray wants to form a committee to facilitate the assessment. The committee will consist of community members that have an interest in the building. Murray said it would to take six months to a year to complete an assessment of the options, and another year to arrange financing and grants, so the the county has given Shiloh Homes a two-year contract to continue housing the care center in the Armory.

"Instead of having the building vacant for two to three years while we figure out how to use it, we'll have a youth care center with Shiloh Homes," Murray said.

In the meantime, community members were polled about what they wanted the building used for.

Delaine Voloshin said turning the building into a vocational center with classes and instruction would greatly benefit the community and its youth. The center could have ties with Colorado Northwestern Community College-Craig, she said.

"A center of that nature would help students through employment programs and training," Voloshin said.

Charity Sjogren, emergency medical technician with The Memorial Hospital, proposed the site be used as an ambulance bay for The Memorial Hospital. The building could not only house the ambulances, it would allow the ambulance crew administrative offices, supplies and the vehicles themselves to be located in one building, while providing additional uses for the hospital, one of those being conference rooms for educational purposes. The beds, bathrooms and kitchens could house travelers the hospital takes in. Sjogren said TMH could lease the building from the community.

Dave Pike, city parks and recreation director, offered the facility as a possible location for a recreation center.

"We have consultants from Evergreen and Denver creating a master plan for Parks and Rec planning from a recently conducted survey, and that plan will give us different alternatives to consider for each need the community has," he said.

The master plan will be completed in October, Pike said.

Deputy District Attorney David Waite supported Pike's plan, saying using the building as a recreation center was the best idea for the county.

Craig resident Loyd Deupree proposed using the building as an assisted living center. A committee is working to build an assisted living center in Craig to house the area's growing senior citizen population.

Waite said that a few of the ideas might be combined, with a vocational center and recreation center co-existing in the building.

Dr. Dean Hollenbeck, vice-president of CNCC and chairman of the Craig Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Committee, felt the wisest course could be to sell the building and attached lot to an interested industry.

"I have received several inquires on facilities of this size from industries and businesses," Hollenbeck said.

The facility might best serve the community as a source of income on its sale, plus it could offer the addition of a new business to the community, Hollenbeck said.

Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead was in favor of turning the Armory into a recreation center, but also agreed that selling the site might be the best answer.

A market appraisal, in Grinstead's opinion, would go a long way to helping the county decide if selling the building made the most sense.

The county doesn't own the facility, so couldn't sell it, but Murray said the building's owners seem open to giving or selling it to the County.

Steve Grandbouche, county parks and recreation director said he hoped whatever the decision was, it wouldn't try be to turn the Armory into something that's not going to fit with. Grandbouche stressed the need to have a clear concept.

"If the building fits that idea, use it, but if we have to rebuild have the building, then maybe that idea has to be built separately and the building used differently," he said.

Craig resident Terry Doherty agreed with several ideas, but said the decision should be a regional-based facility. If the site were turned into a recreation center or vocational center, it could have a regional focus, which would allow for greater use, widespread benefit, and sharing of the cost of organization and construction.

Commissioner Les Hampton said he saw the greatest value in turning the Armory into a a multiple-use facility that allows for the blending of options.

"If the cost was reasonable, working toward a multiple-use facility seems the best option," he said.

This process is just beginning, Hampton said, and the community needs to decide what it wants before moving forward.

Murray will be creating a feasibility worksheet that will be available to people who have a proposal for the future use of the Armory. To receive a feasibility worksheet for proposals, contact Murray at 824-9124.

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