The Craig City Council discussed Tuesday its next step in negotiations between the city and county concerning the Craig Police Department’s lease of the Moffat County Public Safety Center.
City council member Gene Bilodeau, who serves on the city’s negotiating team, said he thought it would be appropriate for the council to start looking into building a new facility for the police department.
Talks between the city and county have been on hold since mid-January when Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner asked for a “short break,” and said she would contact the city in two months.
“I got to thinking — I am not sure why we need to stall out because they need two months,” Bilodeau said during the council meeting. “One of the things we talked about was perhaps looking at what it would cost if we had to go the direction of building our own (building).
“So, I’m thinking whatever their need is to take some time off, that’s fine. But, in the interim, I don’t think we need to just sit back.”
Bilodeau’s idea to look into the cost of building a new police department building was met with general acceptance from other council members.
City manager Jim Ferree said the council would likely organize a workshop to discuss options in the next few months.
The city and county began discussing last year what the police department should pay in rent at the safety center.
The current agreement, which expires in August, entails the police department receiving free rent at the safety center in exchange for the city previously providing the county with free land to build the facility on.
During initial discussions, the county commission presented possible future lease costs, based on the current operating costs of the building, at $256,591 per year to the city.
However, talks shifted from an annual lease to a one-time purchase price.
The city council rejected the county’s purchase price offer for the space, which totaled $1.083 million.
City council members said they could not afford more than $736,120 for the police department’s 2,258 square feet of exclusive office space and 3,000 square feet of shared space in the center.
Bilodeau said it made sense to discuss all options during the break the county asked for. When the two sides meet again, however, Bilodeau said it would be important for the city to not overpay for either a lease or purchase option.
“Whether it’s to revisit the sale price, or the lease price, I’m not really sure what the county has in mind,” he said Wednesday. “But, I do know that from the city’s perspective, that if the sales price continues to be more than we are willing to pay, and a lease price appears more than we are willing to pay, then we do need to look at what it would cost us to build our own facility.”
Bilodeau said the original voter intent behind the safety center, and the goal of the two negotiating governing bodies, is to have all law enforcement agencies under one roof.
However, the two sides “just have a difference of opinion over what a fair price to pay for that would be,” he said.
“We are well into the safety center for over a million dollars and our concern is, ‘Are we going to continue to use taxpayers’ money for a double purchase?’” he said. “Or a double lease on a space?
“In 10 years from now, if we were to build our own facility, at the end of 10 years the potential is there that we have bought and paid for a facility. Or, we could still be paying rent and not have anything to show for it.”
Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray said it would “not be serving the taxpayers best” for the city to build its own police station.
“We need to get to the table and do what is best for all the taxpayers and stay in that spot, get it worked out and get an agreement together that satisfies the long-term intent of the voters,” he said. “What I have heard still is that the citizens think that (law enforcement) needs to be in one spot.”
Danner said she wanted the city to “stay engaged in the joint conversation and come up with more than one idea.”
“And, at this point, I hear one idea and it is to separate,” she said.
Council member Terry Carwile said talks of building a new police station are part of the council “exploring options.”
He thinks that option, to separate the law enforcement agencies, is not “a desirable way to go.”
“I am not looking at it as an option right at this moment, I just haven’t really looked at it in that regard,” he said. “It is a huge swerve away from our objective of keeping everybody in the same facility there. I just don’t want to get into it to that extent just yet.”
Carwile said if he were to consider that as a “viable option, it would almost, by definition, cast a negative light on the discussions.”
“I don’t want to do that,” he said. “I know we seem to be at odds right now, but who is to say what might happen here in the next couple of months?”
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