A fund-amental misunderstanding

Economic development disagreements won't hinder relations between commissioners, city and EDP board

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At a glance

• At a workshop meeting Sept. 11, the Moffat County Commissioners questioned the wisdom in funding the Economic Development Partnership, an organization they say has never produced adequate results since its creation in 2002.

• Commissioners Saed Tayyara and Tom Mathers referred to a combined total funding of around $1 million from the city of Craig and the county to economic development.

• That $1 million figure was intended as an example of what it would cost the city and county if each had given EDP $25,000 - the amount EDP requested for 2008 - every year during the past 22 years, Tayyara said.

• Since 1985, city government has spent $239,000 on economic development projects. However, $129,795 of that amount was from the city and the remaining $109,205 came from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs grants and interest earnings.

• Moffat County records show $154,250 in total contributions from 2000 to 2006.

• Together, the city and county have recorded $284,045 in direct economic development funding since 1985.

— A misunderstanding about a funding statement at a joint meeting of government agencies caused backlash and speculation during the past two weeks.

The Craig City Council and Moffat County Commissioners met Sept. 11 for a roundtable discussion on the future of the Economic Development Partnership. At that meeting, commissioners Saed Tayyara and Tom Mathers said local governments have given EDP about $1 million during the past 22 years.

Economic development cannot be achieved in a set time frame, and it's wrong to abandon development because there hasn't been a banner accomplishment, said Scott Cook, EDP Board of Director chairman.

The commissioners remarked $1 million is too much to be dismissed as seed money. However, those comments and the $1 million figure were misinterpreted, Tayyara said.

On Thursday, he said his Sept. 11 comments were intended to put EDP's current funding request into context, and that if the city and county had each given EDP $25,000 - the amount EDP requested for 2008 - every year during the past 22 years, the figure would have exceeded the $1 million mark.

The actual number, according to city and county documents, is $284,045 given to direct economic development.

There have been other funds dedicated as line items for economic development projects, but not given to economic development groups.

Tayyara said he used the $1 million number not to state fact, but to make a point to the City Council, which has given verbal support for EDP's future.

"I was making an example to show the City Council the logic (of funding EDP) without the concrete numbers in front of me," Tayyara said. "We didn't come to shout and fight. My belief is I listen to everybody."

Tayyara helped begin economic development programs in Craig in 1985 as a city councilor. Now, as a county commissioner, he says he is tired of putting money into something that he doesn't expect will produce results.

"I'm not blaming the EDP board," Tayyara said. "Everybody made mistakes through the years. The city and the county, too."

If funding is cut, the EDP may not have enough money to hire a full-time, paid director. EDP board members have said the director position is necessary to attract a person with the experience and ability to make a significant impact.

Since 2002, there have been three full-time EDP directors: Wally Ralston from 2002 to 2003, Tom Flavin from 2003 to 2005 and Tim Gibbs from 2005 to 2006. There were at least a few months between each director's resignation and the new hire.

Gibbs resigned in April 2006, and since then EDP has been stuck in purgatory, Cook said.

"The whole funding issue was an issue even the last couple of months before (Gibbs) left," he said. "It would have been nonsensical for us to go advertise nationally for a very skilled economic development director, then bring them here and show them we only have enough money for six months."

When the financial future is figured, EDP will make a push for the candidate it can afford. After the commissioners signaled at the Sept. 11 meeting they likely will not change their minds about funding for the economic development program, EDP planned to focus its advertising for a new director locally and on Colorado state Web sites, Cook said.

"We might come up with a very experienced person and then we'll decide if we can afford them," he said, "or a local person who might not have a lot of experience but knows the area."

Just because the commissioners disagree with the City Council and EDP board members does not mean the three entities cannot work together in the future, Tayyara added.

"It doesn't make us all enemies. We all work for the betterment of the public and the county," Tayyara said.

Since the meeting, there have been more calls to Tayyara from the public and public leaders opposing EDP than supporting it, he said.

The commissioners have not completed their budget process for the next year, and have not discussed whether they will continue funding EDP.

An internal memo from City Manager Jim Ferree to the City Council recounts the history of city funding. It states that since 1985, the city has contributed $129,795. There were also Colorado Department of Local Affairs grants totaling $109,205.

Ferree's memo also states there are no records of any county contributions from 1985 to 1997.

Moffat County records from 2000 to 2006 show $154,250 in contributions to economic development projects, which took different forms throughout the years.

The partnership of local businessmen and women that form the current EDP Board of Directors was created in 2002.

According to a 1998 city ordinance, which contains a summary of past city ordinances regarding economic development initiatives, economic development began as a low-interest commercial loan program in 1984.

The 1984 ordinance created the Economic Development Commission to oversee the loans. Between 1985 and 1987, the city contributed $33,000 and received $109,205 in DOLA grants and interest earnings.

Four years later, a 1988 city ordinance dissolved the Economic Development Commission, and the responsibility for remaining outstanding loans passed to the City Council and staff.

Ten years went by before the city acted on the $142,205 left in the loan program fund. The 1998 ordinance granted the city authority to administer that money in any way promoting economic development.

Since then, the city used that and additional money to pay for an economic diversification strategy in October 2000, a part-time "marketing specialist" at the Craig Chamber of Commerce from 2000 to 2001 and finally as annual $25,000 contributions to EDP from 2002 to 2007.

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