Moffat, Craig officials react to conference relocation
In other news ...
At its regular meeting Tuesday, the Craig City Council:
• Approved, 7-0, renewal of the 3.2-percent beer retail license for Pizza Hut, 1070 W. Victory Way.
• Approved, 7-0, renewal of a retail liquor store license for Lori and Lonnie Gillam doing business as Stockmen’s Liquor.
• Approved, 7-0, the 2011 sublease between the city and Moffat County for office space in the Moffat County Public Safety Center.
Craig City Council member Don Jones expressed concern Tuesday night.
“Probably 90 percent of the coal miners live in Hayden, Craig or Meeker,” Jones said. “Nobody lives in Steamboat.”
Jones was reacting to a presentation to the council by event planner Gena Hinkemeyer.
Hinkemeyer announced that the Colorado Coal Power Generation Conference will take place at Sheraton Steamboat Resort in Steamboat Springs.
In the past, the semi-annual conference has been hosted in Craig, and this year’s conference was originally scheduled for May at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion.
However, the conference was postponed due to difficulties booking speakers.
Eventually, Hinkemeyer rescheduled the event to partner with the Colorado Water Congress Conference for a shared event Aug. 23 through 25 in Steamboat Springs.
Jones said the change in venue is troubling.
“We’re dishing out money for upstream development when the majority of the workers and the people are in the lower half of the basin,” Jones said. “I guess I’m disappointed.”
“We were disappointed, as well,” Hinkemeyer said.
But, there’s a bright side, she added.
“State legislators will be there, and that’s who we’re trying to target,” she said of the Colorado Water Congress portion of the conference. “It just made sense for this year.”
Hinkemeyer explained that a portion of the conference will include a four-bus tour to Trapper Mine and Tri-State Generation & Transmission’s Craig Station.
Councilor Jennifer Riley pressed Hinkemeyer for details.
“Do you anticipate you will see increased attendance be-
cause you have partnered with the Water Congress?” Riley asked.
“Yes, we do,” Hinkemeyer said. “In the past years, they (Water Congress) have had more than 250 people come. When we were going to have it here, we were planning to get 90 to 100.”
Next, Riley asked about the demographics of the bus tour.
“Do you think we’re pulling some registrants from the Water Congress?” she asked.
“I do,” Hinkemeyer said. “The (registrants) I have right now are all from the Water Congress.”
Hinkemeyer’s response satisfied Riley.
“That’s it,” she said. “I think it’s really important for people from other regions to see our coal operations and our power plant.
“I think there’s a huge misconception on the Front Range about coal-fired power generation and coal mining in general. They have this idea that it’s dirty … but what we do here is very clean and our coal-burning capacity is very clean.”
Riley said tours of Craig coal facilities have the power to sway opinions.
“I was very disappointed that we aren’t keeping that conference here because I feel like it’s ours to have,” she said. “But, if we can bring in some outside eyes to see what’s going on here, it will help us in the future — especially when we’re dealing with a legislature that’s passing bills like 1365 that gravely impact what we do here.
“We’re not traditional coal operations. We’re not back East. We have something completely different.”
Mayor Terry Carwile began his comments with a disclosure.
“First, I have to disclose that I’m on the organizing committee,” he said. “That aside, everybody knows I’m a retired coal miner. And, everybody knows my position with respect to the industry. So, I don’t think I need to say anything more about that.
“And, I won’t be participating in any action the council might take.”
With that, the council took action. Riley moved that the council support the conference with a pledge of $1,000.
The council voted, 6-0, in favor of the motion.
Earlier in the day, Hinkemeyer made the same presentation to the Moffat County Commission during its regular meeting.
Commissioner Tom Mathers expressed dismay over the change of venue.
“I understand you’re moving to Steamboat because of the Water Congress, but I sure hate seeing that move out of Moffat County,” he said.
Hinkemeyer explained the bus tours might bring new eyes to Craig facilities.
Commissioner Audrey Danner said she understood.
“I always want to have (the conference) here, but when you look at coal in Routt County — even though some of them don’t know they have it — it is a part of their economy,” she said.
Regarding sponsorship of the event, the commissioners agreed to provide Hinkemeyer with a decision by next week.