Craig Craig Mayor Don Jones said feedback he heard was overwhelming regarding the Moffat County School District's funding request to the city for an expanded gymnasium.
"I've received more calls on this project than anything else since I've been up here," Jones said during Tuesday night's City Council meeting. "And all but one of those people said 'No, don't go through with this.'"
His words came before the council's vote, and foreshadowed the governing body's decision.
A crowded City Council chamber watched as the board unanimously rejected, 6-0, the school district's proposal for $365,000, which would have funded an expanded gymnasium at Craig Middle School.
Had the city funded the project, the money would have come from a $651,000 surplus.
The school district originally had asked the city for $150,000. The amount increased to $365,000 after it was learned the city would need an additional 12 feet in space to accommodate city programs.
Councilor Bill Johnston, who sat for his last meeting as a council member Tuesday night, said he soured on the gym proposal when the price increased.
"What was a good deal at $150,000 is a bad deal at $365,000," Johnston said.
City Councilor Gene Bilodeau said the economy has changed how Craig should spend its money.
"I've watched as the economy has gone from bad to worse," Bilodeau said. "Northwestern Colorado seemed insulated from the problems facing the country, and even the eastern slope. But, now it seems like those problems are encroaching on us."
Craig City Manager Jim Ferree said city department leaders wanted the surplus money to fund equipment.
"We went to all of our staff and asked them if there were any unfunded capital improvements and any other capital needs that they would like to see with the $365,000," Ferree said. "We've postponed $600,000 worth of equipment, and that's after (the Department of Local Affairs) cut $300,000.
"It wasn't unanimous, but the majority of the city departments would like to see the equipment they needed six or seven months ago."
Ferree said in addition to equipment, city officials would also like to see improvements to City Hall.
Ferree said the city should also be saving money, in case the economy worsens.
"Most people are also really nervous about the economy," Ferree said. "We have to watch sales tax revenue. Over to the east they've seen a reduction in revenues. I think everyone would be more comfortable if not every penny of the surplus was spent.
If the state keeps cutting back on its budget, Craig should have a back-up plan, Bilodeau said.
"We keep getting all of this news about the state budget and how our revenues might decrease," Bilodeau said. "Knowing that, I have to say it was a great idea, just bad timing."
Jones said too much of the surplus money shouldn't be focused on recreation.
"We do need more gym space; we've been short in gym space for as long as I can remember," Jones said. "But recreation is just one small part of living in Craig. A lot of that money should be focused on the other departments or infrastructure."
Councilor Terry Carwile said there is a backlog of equipment needs throughout city departments. He said if the city were to move the gym project to the top, it wouldn't be showing the other departments faith.
"I think the capital improvements should take priority here," he said. "(City departments) worked hard on the budget, and on merits we should complete the cycle. I don't know how long we can postpone these expenses."
Councilor Joe Herod said the council needed to be smart with city money, and he felt allocating the money for the gym would be letting taxpayers down.
"The taxpayers look to us to spend money the right way," Herod said.
Jones said city, school and Moffat County officials should have worked together from the start of the project. Because they didn't, the project failed, he said.
"If we had the city and the schools and the county and the community college all working together, we might have been able to apply for a DOLA grant and been successful," the mayor said.