Larry Neu, quartermaster of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265, turns in disgust Tuesday night during a discussion with Craig City Council members about reopening lease negotiations for Veterans Memorial Park.

Photo by Joe Moylan

Larry Neu, quartermaster of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265, turns in disgust Tuesday night during a discussion with Craig City Council members about reopening lease negotiations for Veterans Memorial Park.

VFW, Craig City Council discuss reopening negotiations

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Craig City Council member Gene Bilodeau explains to Larry Neu, quartermaster of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265, that he would entertain reopening lease negotiations only if the VFW would consider the city’s original lease terms.

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Guy Bradshaw, commander-elect of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265, listens to a question posed by Craig City Council member Joe Bird Tuesday night. Bradshaw petitioned city council to consider reopening lease negotiations for Veterans Memorial Park.

The future of Veterans Memorial Park, once known as Craig City Park, was again a discussion item during Tuesday’s Craig City Council meeting.

Guy Bradshaw, commander-elect of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265, was joined by more than a dozen local veterans in his pitch to resuscitate lease negotiations between the VFW and the city.

“Due to volatile public attitude both directed to the VFW and the city council, we believe it would be a severe injustice to the people of Craig, the city council and the Veterans of Foreign Wars to discontinue lease negotiations,” Bradshaw said. “That doesn’t mean we are going to come to an agreement anytime soon, but the day the city council and the Veterans of Foreign Wars stop talking about a park the public has had access to since 1947 is the day we embark down the wrong path.”

Bradshaw cited the outcome of the April 10 council meeting in which council members voted to discontinue lease negotiations with the VFW by a 5-0 vote.

Council member Jennifer Riley was absent from the April 10 meeting and did not vote.

Mayor Terry Carwile abstained from voting given his lifetime membership with the local VFW.

City council members cited the length of time already invested in the negotiation process and a perception the VFW had lost interest in their decisions April 10.

On Tuesday, Bradshaw said his organization hasn't lost interest.

He said the VFW membership wanted to continue talking if the city was willing to address two points of contention with the original draft lease written in January.

Bradshaw said VFW members did not like the idea of a utility reimbursement and would prefer a shorter lease term.

“A 25-year lease is out of the question because none of us are going to be around in 25 years,” Bradshaw said. “We understand, the membership understands, that if you are going to sink taxpayer funds into improvements, you’re going to want to ensure long-term access, but we don’t think a five or a 10-year lease is unreasonable.”

Council member Byron Willems highlighted the city’s pledge to install new bathrooms in his rebuttal against a short-term lease.

“At budget time we had plans to allocate funds for new bathrooms at the park and we wanted to do those this year, but we didn’t have a lease, so we didn’t dare appropriate any funds for the park,” Willems said. “I can see where you are coming from about none of us are going to be here in 25 years, but bathrooms are going to cost about $70,000 a piece.

“No one is saying the park wouldn’t benefit from bathrooms, those are long overdue, but that is a pretty significant investment on our part. Without a long-term lease, we can’t spend taxpayer money on something we may not have any control over in five years.”

In addition to the issue of tying park improvements to an agreeable lease term, the consensus among council members was that too much time had already been invested in the negotiation process with no results.

“It’s about the time,” council member Ray Beck said. “If we’re going to continue negotiations we have to set a timeline to work through this together because ultimately it’s not about the city and it’s not about the VFW, it’s about doing what’s best for the community.”

Carwile interjected to remind the council, VFW members, and the public that council members had already taken official action to end lease negotiations.

According to parliamentary procedure, someone from the prevailing side of the issue would need to offer a motion to reconsider for Tuesday’s discussion to continue.

Considering Riley and Carwile did not vote April 10, and one of the prevailing members, Don Jones, was absent from Tuesday’s meeting, Carwile told Bradshaw asking council to reconsider might be a risky move.

“Since there are only four members eligible to vote on a motion to reconsider, if there is a 2-2 tie, the motion would fail and we wouldn’t continue negotiations,” Carwile said.

Bradshaw asked for a moment to confer with his members. The discussion later resumed.

Bradshaw said there were three items the VFW wanted answered. The first was in reference to bathrooms.

“During Craig clean-up last year, the city employees did not have access to restrooms over there and came down to use our restrooms,” VFW Quartermaster Larry Neu said. “I’m saying they’re not maintained to be used.

“This thing about $80,000 for a restroom, if you maintained what you have up there you wouldn’t need a new one.”

Bradshaw returned to the podium and stated the next membership meeting would take place May 21. He asked that the VFW be allowed to mull over the issue until shortly after Memorial Day.

In the meantime, Bradshaw asked council to present the VFW with a lease it believed was reasonable for the VFW membership to consider.

“Isn’t that what we did back in January?” Riley said.

Neu once again took the podium.

“The city offered a utility reimbursement to our post and our membership rejected that,” Neu said. “They said that was a fine amount in 1948. This is 2012, times have changed, values have changed, everything has changed.”

Carwile again interjected, saying the direction of the conversation was steering toward lease negotiations. He asked council members to offer a motion to reconsider before discussions could proceed.

But council members were hesitant to reopen negotiations because of Jones’ absence.

“I would be open to starting negotiations again, but I would like to see something from the VFW that’s a little closer to the (original lease),” council member Gene Bilodeau said. “If we’re still this far apart next month then I wouldn’t see the point in restarting negotiations.”

“If we’re not going to resume negotiations, then there’s no point in us having a meeting,” Neu said. “End of story.”

Neu and about half of the VFW members in attendance left the meeting.

With no motion on the floor, Carwile asked Craig City Attorney Kenny Wohl to explain the eminent domain process to the audience and for the record.

He then asked Parks and Recreation Director Dave Pike what would need to be done to remove the city’s equipment from the VFW’s property.

“The playground equipment, the basketball court and irrigation system would all stay,” Pike said. “It’s an old system and it would probably cost more to remove it than simply leaving it. We would essentially just turn off the water and discontinue maintenance. “The only question would be who owns the (Whittle the Wood) carvings, which I imagine we would need to seek legal counsel on.”

During a closing statement, council member Joe Bird reached out to the remaining VFW members in attendance.

“I hate that it has gotten to this stalemate, but I guess I’ll make a statement by asking a question,” Bird said. “Based on your purpose as a group and your coming here tonight, is what Larry said as your quartermaster and then leaving the group’s consensus?”

Bradshaw replied that it wasn’t.

“On our part, we’re still going to discuss it,” Bradshaw said. “That is not the consensus of the group. We are a pretty patriotic group, but the people that are still here want to continue to keep talking.

“That’s why we’ve asked for your indulgence to give us six weeks to discuss it. That is the best, no B.S. answer I can give you.”

Bird said he would be open to hearing the VFW’s proposal after Memorial Day, but only if a timeline is attached.

At such time, Wohl added, the council could render a motion to reconsider lease negotiations.

“I appreciate what councilman Bird just said because I was under the impression that we just hit a stalemate again,” Wohl said. “Just because you don’t present a motion tonight does not mean you can’t do it at the next meeting or at another meeting in the future.”

“The door is always open and I will be more than happy to entertain that motion,” Carwile told Bradshaw. “It just appears that tonight is not the time to consider that question.”

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Comments

David Moore 1 year, 12 months ago

Oh my, this is so complicated isn't it? How about this: -City of Craig maintains the park, builds bathrooms and leaves the wood carvings where they are. -VFW gains the name "Veterans memorial park", with signage, and shuts up and moves on. As always, as a military child, I totally respect the sacrifices our veterans have made, but, I cannot and do not support their ideals regarding the disposition of OUR park. You win, they win, we win, it works out for all of us. I will and would support my taxpayer money going toward maintenance of the park, building of restrooms and whatever was needed to maintain the park. Anything less will not get my respect or support.

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jamieb5691 1 year, 12 months ago

Why doesn't the city offer them what its worth? They offer $25,000, come on a lot in shadow mountain its worth more than that. Guess what city counsel if these Veterans Would not have fought for our freedom you wouldn't even have the right to argue in the first place! Let alone trying to rip them off. I have been in the construction business for over 15 years and you want $70,000 for a bathroom, are they gold toilets? Ooh that's right it takes 10 city workers to do the job of two men. 2 working and 8 leaning on shovels just like we see all over town. Eminent domain ? Grow up! You don't get what you want, so you threaten? Half you city workers make double of what you should or should I say what your worth. Maybe the people of Craig should eminent domain the city hall, replace all you with people who actually work for their money then use that money to pay the lease for the park. If the city owned it and the veterans wanted to lease it you could Bet your ass it would be worth $200,000 then. Pay them what its worth!!!!!

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jamieb5691 1 year, 12 months ago

There's been no bathroom for how many years now? Walk, simple as that. After all according to the Denver post Moffat county hit number one in the state for obesity. Waste of $70,000. First of all shadow mountain is a trailer park and lots are small so what I was saying was one lot price of $25,000 is worth approximately how many acres at the city park? Land is land and you can't buy that type of land anywhere in Moffat county for $25,000. Let alone downtown or commercial property. Those veterans gave us the right for utilities so for saying the city gave them utilities is completely out of context. As if those veterans have never done anything for this community for free? Think again!!! Any one of those veterans would help you personally if you ever needed it, would your fellow city workers do that for you? I think not no let me rephrase that I know not!

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David Moore 1 year, 12 months ago

In reality, there are no bathrooms at the park. If you are talking about the ones at the pool, they are locked 9 times out of 10, I know because when taking my daughter to the park to play and she needed a bathroom, they were not available. Good thing she has control. A set of bathrooms that are available all the time would be something positive, IF you can keep the dang kids from destroying them. We all know what the sacrifices that our vets have made for our freedom so continuing on with that fact is no longer a point of contention here. They are however not entitled to anything free and are not entitled to demand such a high price for property that was always supposed to be for the community, not for their personal financial gains. It's just too darned simple, City does what they have done for years, Vets get the thing named after them with free signs and that's it, done deal sign the papers. In reality the City is putting out way more in maintenance than it is really worth. If the city put $25,000 worth of maintenance (hypothetical of course, I don't know what the real figure is) into the park each year since 1947, that would be $1,625,000 of taxpayer money spent already. Which means this community has already paid for it. I don't agree with eminent domain either, but for the good of the community and to preserve a precious place for all ages, I would support the city using it in this case. What I would rather see is the VFW cease in being greedy and resign the original lease and for the city to be generous and give them back their free trash, water and sewer. It's a win-win for both.

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jamieb5691 1 year, 12 months ago

It doesn't matter who or what property is leased, most leases state that whoever is leasing the property must also maintain the property. Such as mowing, watering lawn, etc. So in my eye its not been a favor to the VFW for the city to upkeep the property, it was the responsibility of the city to do so since they were leasing it. Basically the VFW is asking for $667 per month lease, if I got my numbers right. Why is that so out of line? Huge piece of beautiful property on the creek, downtown. Well worth it. Its not as if none of that money wouldn't come back into the community. As I stated before those veterans do help people.

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David Moore 1 year, 12 months ago

I think what we all need to see is the original agreement that was made up years ago. Don't forget, not only was the city maintaining the park, they also gave the VFW free water, sewer and trash pickup. Sounds to me like the VFW had it made. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. This agreement was not broken and just needed renewed, however, someone had an idea that money could be made above and beyond what was already being done, for free, to them. It cost us taxpayers though to maintain the park and provide free services to their post, something I have no problem with if it keeps the park as is. I however will not support greed, the city is not being greedy and offered a fair price for land with grass on it and some wood statues. And please stop with the "we owe them" and the "they help people", we know that and as stated multiple times ad nauseum, we respect that. All we owe them is respect for their service, dignity and the thanks for being a good community organization, we do not owe them anything else, especially an astronomical price for a chunk of land next to dirtwater creek. All anyone is asking is that they be reasonable, and it is them who are not being reasonable.

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valleylocal 1 year, 12 months ago

Just a reminder...the pool and the land north of the pool are not in question. The portion they are talking about is the land between the pool and VFW. I wanted to clarify that.

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WrestlinRockies 1 year, 12 months ago

Follow in the footsteps of Nederland, Colorado and what they did with Frozen Dead Guy Days....sell, sell, sell.

Forget all of the bickering and the BS!

Sell it to an interest that will not cause so much opposition and will turn this into some good all the way around.

Half the events that take place down there would be Nationally recognized (under proper direction and management) and bring in ten fold the amount of revenue to the City if they would just sell it off......uh oh, wait...this is Craig and we are stuck in 1972....forget that idea!

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