Questions surround business park proposal

A proposed 23-acre business park billed as Craig's "one-stop shop" for upstart technology firms will go before the city council within the next month, local officials said Wednesday.

But among the unanswered questions with the project, planners said, is they're unsure what's buried beneath the city-owned land where it's proposed.

Jim Ferree, Craig city manager, also said it's unknown who will pay for any clean-up or removal of unused sewer lines on the site. The site is a former sewer lagoon west of the Moffat County Public Safety Center, where Wallace Ralston, executive director of the Craig-Moffat County Economic Partnership, wants to develop the business park.

"We're interested, but the city council has not discussed it yet," Ferree said.

The partnership would be the developer and act as a landlord for the still vaguely defined business park, which would be funded largely on the back of grant monies, Ralston said.

The partnership has some $50,000 in grants from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Association.

Ralston said he would tap that same funding source to cover all remaining costs depending if, and to what extent, the city signs off on his ambitions for the land.

"A 50,000-square-foot building, initially," Ralston described his best-case scenario, or, "Wally's world."

Ralston said he would like to have the park built and opened midway through 2003. He added that the project could be developed without city or county cash. Ferree noted that no money for the project has been budgeted for next year.

The Craig Communications Business District one of three business parks outlined in the "Connect to Craig" community planning effort of two years ago would offer fledgling and start-up tech companies high-speed DSL and T-1 Internet access.

Ralston proposes to tap into that same Internet infrastructure, which now runs to the Public Safety Center. Water and sewer hook-up possibilities already exist for the site, Ferree said.

"We could also consider rent-free space for a period of time," Ralston said, who added that his own non-profit partnership might move to the facility.

Prospective tenants include local tech firms, as well as new outside businesses currently being recruited, which he declined to name.

Other local business associations voiced support for the project. The new jobs are welcomed, provided that new large retailers or shopping malls aren't invited to Craig, said Nadine Daszkiewicz, president of the downtown business association, and owner of the Kitchen Shop.

"I'm glad to see someone's moving along on this," she said.

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