Chamber ends Visitor Center project

Board members say plan could divide local organizations

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At its Thursday meeting, the Craig Chamber of Commerce board:

• Reviewed changes to the Chamber's bid process, a process that began after Action Drain owners said their bid for portable toilets during Grand Olde West Days was compromised.

Among the proposed changes is a provision for the executive director to be the only person who handles bids, as well as others to keep all bids confidential before and after the award and putting in a regimented timeline for when bids are submitted and approved.

The board did not vote on the changes, but agreed the Chamber would start using the new guidelines immediately.

• Discussed whether increasing expenses could hurt the group's bottom line by the end of the year.

Board member Joe Bird said he was concerned that the Chamber's funds are about $8,000 below where they were this time last year. He specifically cited increasied bank fees as one expense that rose from last year.

"If our expenses are going to go at that pace, do we need to correct something before the end of the year?" he asked.

Chamber executive director Christina Currie and executive assistant Rebekah Greenwood said the Chamber is one pace to meet its budget. The reason the funds look different this year is because of a few expenses the Chamber didn't have in 2008, such as a $5,000 transfer to the building fund for a construction project at the Moffat County Visitor Center.

The board voted to abandon that project later during its meeting.

— Gene Bilodeau has been involved with the Moffat County Visitor Center expansion project from the beginning, but he said that doesn't mean he can't see when a good idea has run its course.

Bilodeau, a Craig Chamber of Commerce board member, made a motion at the group's meeting Thursday that the Chamber is "not willing to move forward" with a proposed construction project that would unite three Craig community organizations under one roof.

The board passed his motion unanimously. Members Deb Teeter and Don Jones, who also is the mayor of Craig, were absent.

To express how he felt, Bilodeau used an analogy for frustration.

"It feels like we're trying to teach pigs to sing," he said, adding later that he was not comparing anyone to a pig. "It frustrates the pig, and it frustrates the person who's trying to teach them to sing."

For the past few years, representatives from the Chamber, Moffat County Tourism Association and Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership have discussed expanding the Visitor Center to build offices for all three groups.

The project culminated in a large meeting last month at Craig City Hall, with members from each group and officials from the city and county present.

Chamber board members said Thursday they couldn't help but be disappointed in how the meeting went.

"I think the meeting was helpful, but I don't know that everybody got on the same page or not," board President Lisa Balstad said.

Bilodeau was the first person to raise the possibility that the Chamber should end the Visitor Center project.

His concern was primarily the fact the various issues surrounding the project - financing and building ownership, among others - could become divisive issues among the three groups, which have only recently begun working well together.

"We're just beating a dead horse," Bilodeau said. "Rather than endangering a good working relationship between the three entities, maybe we should move on."

Balstad said she was disappointed that none of the other groups were willing to sign a proposed contract at the joint meeting last month. Chamber board members said they saw the agreement more as a formal commitment to try and make the project work rather than a financial obligation.

Chamber board members and staff said other groups did not seem to make a good faith effort to work together on the project.

"People aren't walking into this feeling like they're getting a fair shake," Chamber Executive Director Christina Currie said. "They're feeling like they need to fight for it, and get it in writing."

Board member Joe Bird said he does not think money was behind people's hesitation.

"There's an underlying current of stuff, I'm not sure how many years that it's going to take to get everybody comfortable," he said. "There's some other stuff involved that needs to be resolved."

EDP board chair Scott Cook said there was nothing holding EDP back other than finances.

"I've always felt like it was a good concept : but I think there was just overriding financial issues that were a problem for the EDP," Cook said. "All of our budgets are pretty tight."

Cook rejected the notion that EDP members were concerned about anything else.

"I don't think anyone was trying to protect their turf or anything like that," Cook said. "It was just a deal where we didn't know if we would have enough money and didn't want to promise anything."

MCTA board chair Melody Villard said she supported the Chamber's decision.

"Right now, all three entities work really well together, but even if there were some advantages to be had for all of us being under the same roof, I wouldn't want anything to come between our working relationships," Villard said. "That's definitely the most important thing."

However, she said she did not think MCTA was only concerned about itself.

"We're supposed to be fiscally responsible with the money we're entrusted with," Villard said. "Anybody who does good business knows to get it in black and white before jumping in."

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