Craig City Council discusses Veterans Memorial Park lease

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In other action ...

At its regular meeting Tuesday night, the Craig City Council:

• Approved, 6-0, Feb. 14 meeting minutes.

• Approved, 6-0, a site plan for a new Eyecare Specialties office building at 418 Green St., as submitted by Craig Eckroth and Ron Danner.

• Heard an economic update from Betsy Cook, director of the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership.

• Hosted a public hearing and approved, 6-0, renewing a conditional use permit for a 500-gallon propane dispensing station at B&B Welders Supply, Inc.

• Appointed, 6-0, Bob Osburn and Victor Updike to the board of appeals.

• Awarded, 6-0, a $29,132 bid from O.J. Watson to purchase two 10-foot dump beds for the road and bridge department.

• Awarded, 6-0, an $11,826 bid from Dell to purchase desktop computers for various departments.

• Approved, 6-0, a second reading of Ordinance No. 1018 to carryover into 2012 projects not completed in 2011.

• Approved, 6-0, up to $9,000 in water line repairs at the wave pool.

• Heard a 2011 Craig Police Department year-end report from Chief Walt Vanatta.

• Heard a 2011 year-end financial report from Finance Director Bruce Nelson.

— Council member Byron Willems was absent from Tuesday’s meeting

A proposed lease agreement between the City of Craig and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265 for Veterans Memorial Park was once again a topic of conversation during Tuesday’s Craig City Council meeting.

The two parties reopened negotiations Jan. 24 during a city council workshop and a draft of what the lease could look like has appeared on the agenda for both council meetings this month.

The council was expected to take action on whether to adopt or amend the lease Tuesday, but issues have arisen.

Craig City Manager Jim Ferree said he had a recent phone conversation with VFW Commander David Walters, who said the VFW membership would like to see some items on the lease changed.

The most significant amendment concerns the lease term, Ferree said.

Currently, the draft lease is written to expire in 2037.

The VFW would prefer a contract in the neighborhood of three to five years instead, Ferree said.

The VFW is investigating whether certain deed restrictions, which stipulate the park must remain an open public space in perpetuity, can be removed.

“He (Walters) indicated they are going to retain an attorney and see if the deed restrictions can be lifted,” Ferree said. “I don’t know if they have made any progress on that yet, but it’s just been phone conversations, nothing in writing.”

Craig Mayor Terry Carwile attended last week’s VFW membership meeting when the idea of going to court to get the deed restrictions lifted was discussed.

He said he has difficulty pursuing a new lease agreement with the VFW considering it is in the process of trying to get its deed restrictions removed.

“The two concepts are incompatible,” Carwile said. “If they are serious about going to court and lifting the deed restrictions, they need to accomplish that court action, whatever the outcome may be, before we try to advance the lease discussion any further.”

If the VFW is successful in removing the deed restrictions, the organization would own an unrestricted piece of commercial property that could attract buyers uninterested in maintaining the property as a park.

“That’s not the direction the City of Craig would want to take,” Carwile said. “So, I am hopeful that we will get a formal response from them in writing.”

Council members directed Ferree to send the VFW a letter requesting a written response within two weeks on what the organization’s position is regarding the lease and its progress on lifting the deed restrictions.

Ferree was also directed by the council to inform the VFW the organization can expect to receive monthly utility bills beginning March 1 if it does not reply within two weeks.

“I think under what we originally looked at (during the Jan. 24 workshop) the intent was they would begin to pay the utilities,” council member Gene Bilodeau said. “So, no matter what happens, that was part of the discussion going forward.”

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Comments

Colette Erickson 2 years, 9 months ago

The most recent position taken by the VFW - an attempt to have the deed restriction removed - is disgusting. The park land was deeded to them by the original grantor in TRUST, for the VFW to hold as STEWARDS for the public good. Had the grantor wanted the VFW to be able to use the land any way they wanted, there would not have been a deed restriction. This attempt to "end-run" the desires of the original grantors stinks, and does not speak well for the integrity of those involved in the action.

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MoCo4life 2 years, 9 months ago

I agree. This is disgusting. If the VFW needs money, which they evidently do, they should improve their restaurant or bingo participation or do other fundraisers. The city park property was intended to be used as a community park and the city has done a great job of maintaining and improving it. For the VFW to attempt to lift the deed restrictions so they can make a fast buck is a slap in the face to the original owners who wanted that property preserved for the community. The VFW didn't pay for this property, it was given to them I assume, because they were a civic-minded group who would manage it in the way the original owners wanted. I'm so disappointed in the VFW for what they're doing and how greedy they've become.

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David Moore 2 years, 9 months ago

What I am hoping in this issue is that common sense will eventually kick in for the VFW, an organization which I respect for their sacrifices. One would hope that they would eventually realize what they will do to themselves in the eyes of the community if they close off the park and sell it off for commercial or private use. Ostracized is the only word that comes to mind.

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Andrew Russo 2 years, 9 months ago

Duke Cunningham made sacrifices, Navy officer for 20 yrs, the only Navy flying ace from the Vietnam War but greed got the best of him too and he is now a convicted felon for it. Seems greed can get to the best of us...

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