Council thinks Visitor Center works where it is

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— The debate at City Hall on Tuesday night doesn't change the truth, Craig City Councilor Byron Willems said.

The Moffat County Visitor Center is a valuable asset to the community, it should stay where it is, and it should remain viable, he said.

Councilor Bill Johnston said the same, and asked members of the Moffat County Tourism Association board why the MCTA would not want that.

"It sure seemed obvious to me that the MCTA would want that Visitor Center where it is and viable," Johnston said.

MCTA board member Cindy Looper responded that the Visitor Center is important, but that her agency is trying to focus on its main charge by law - to market and promote Moffat County abroad.

"Everybody wants to give away the MCTA budget," Looper said. "The main portion of what the law says to spend the (lodging tax) on is to bring tourists to Craig."

If the Craig Chamber of Commerce doesn't think it can support a Visitor Center, it should close it and the MCTA will find a new location, Looper added.

She suggested the Museum of Northwest Colorado.

"We can use the $12,000 we're giving the Chamber (in 2008) and give that to the museum," Looper said. "The Chamber can be a Chamber and the museum can be the Visitor Center."

MCTA does not have a problem giving money to tourism centers, as it already gives $7,000 to the Dinosaur Welcome Center, she added.

Councilors did not like the idea of moving the Visitor Center.

Chamber data shows there were 8,762 walk-ins in 2006, and 5,166 this year through October.

With numbers that large, the city shouldn't disturb what is a working and established system, Willems said.

That MCTA contributes more than any other entity besides the Chamber is a nonissue, even though the governmental bodies involved have much bigger budgets, he added.

"The MCTA's total budget is for that," Willems said. "This is what they're here for. They should put in more money than anyone else."

Toward the end of the discussion, Randy Call, the city's Road and Bridge and Refuse department director, chose to speak as a taxpayer, not a city official.

"I'm sitting here as a citizen of Craig, and I'm starting to boil," Call said to the Council. "You all need to look at the history of this thing and look at why the community united and why the Visitor Center is there.

"These organizations need to quit having power struggles. They need to start working together. It sounds like the funding is there, that we can fund everything we want, but everyone wants to keep control of it."

The Moffat County Commission is scheduled to host a workshop with the Chamber at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Moffat County Courthouse. MCTA has been invited to attend, and Mayor Don Jones plans to be there as a city representative and a member of the Chamber board.

The Council decided to wait for the outcome of that workshop before moving forward.

Collin Smith can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

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