Chamber board takes hold of its budget

From now on, the Craig Chamber of Commerce board will have more hands-on involvement with the organization's finances.

After an unplanned executive session at the group's Thursday meeting, the board unanimously approved creating a new finance committee, which will delve into the Chamber's finances each month before regular board meetings.

Bryce Jacobson, Chamber board member and Daily Press publisher, began discussions on the group's budget when he motioned for an executive session that was not on the meeting agenda.

Executive sessions allow boards to discuss issues without public witnesses.

Jacobson said he had become concerned the board was not as knowledgeable about the Chamber budget as it should have been, and he made the motion to go into an executive session to get all board members on the same page.

The board passed the motion with Craig Mayor Don Jones casting the only vote in opposition of the executive session.

Jones said he voted against the executive session because he felt it should have been announced before the meeting began.

"It would be like me calling for an executive session during a council meeting without telling anybody about it," said Jones, who participated in the executive session and voted in favor of creating the finance committee.

Jacobson was most concerned with the group's cash flow problem, he said. Problems came to a head at the end of December 2008, when the organization had about $109 available to spend.

"We have cash flow issues," Jacobson said. "In November and December and January, our board simply approved a treasurer's report that stated those small amounts of cash available to operate our business."

The board must get a hold of where the Chamber's finances are if it is going to serve the local business community, he added.

"It's imperative we understand where that money is supposed to be coming from, not just a number," Jacobson said.

Chamber staff, including Executive Director Christina Currie, were not asked to participate in the board's discussion.

Jacobson said it was not his intent to alienate anyone.

He wanted the board to have one clear message for staff when they returned to the meeting.

"Nonprofit executive directors are special people, and they must take the direction of 12 different individuals in order to succeed," he said. "I felt as though the only way we could come to a solution in the fastest, most effective way would be if it was just the board members have a frank discussion."

Jacobson would not comment about whether the 2009 budget approved by the board in December had problems that the board was unaware of at the time.

The group's executive director said cash issues have not hurt the Chamber up to this point,

"We never, ever went below a zero balance," Currie said. "We were still able to pay all our bills and pay our payroll, even though it got pretty tight at times."

The Chamber is in a good financial position now, she added.

Its cash balance is up to about $20,000, as of last week, after receiving a combined $15,000 from the Moffat County Tourism Association - which partially funds the Visitor Center operated by the Chamber - and Moffat County - which agreed to fund the Chamber $7,500 in 2009.

Last year's cash flow problems stemmed mostly from government contributions that never arrived, Currie said.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife and Bureau of Land Management still have not paid a combined $20,000 they promised for last year.

Currie said local DOW and BLM officials did everything they could to get that money, but the state and federal governments held the payments.

Neither has come in yet, though the DOW's check should come in soon since the state approved the payment Feb. 5.

EDP assesses staffing

The Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership plans to advertise for a second part-time position this week, Director Darcy Trask said.

The group voted at its meeting Wednesday meeting to seek an administrative assistant for about 16 to 20 hours a week to help with filing and day-to-day operations.

"We've had so many irons in the fire, we haven't had the time to do all the paperwork tied to all the busy things we're doing," EDP board member Jay Oxley said.

However, he added board members still are undecided where the group should focus its resources.

"There's a little bit of a philosophical difference between different board members," Oxley said. "Some of us feel that the only way to have a presence in the community is to help local businesses. :We also feel we need to do the big picture. We need to go out hunting to find the primary jobs" for local workers.

Hunting for new industries is why Oxley said he joined EDP, but hunting alone isn't visible enough to the community.

Outside companies ask the EDP keep their interest confidential, he said.

Because of that, local residents don't get the chance to hear about what EDP is doing, so they think EDP isn't doing much.

Still, Oxley said he thinks EDP must keep hunting for the good of the community, even if it hurts the group's reputation in the short term.

"When these coalmines go away and we have 150 to 200 people out of work, we need to have jobs for those people to do," he said.

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmithcraigdailypress.com

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