From left, John Kinkaid, Roy Tipton, Mindy Curtis and Kent Nielson join other city and county officials to discuss the budget issues the area is up against.

Photo by Erin Fenner

From left, John Kinkaid, Roy Tipton, Mindy Curtis and Kent Nielson join other city and county officials to discuss the budget issues the area is up against.

Craig and Moffat County meet to discuss budget hurdles

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— Moffat County and city of Craig officials got together Tuesday night to discuss current financial hurdles and ideas that could increase revenue for the area.

Moffat County Director of Development Services Roy Tipton said the Shadow Mountain improvement project, which will update the water/sewer systems and roads for the subdivision throughout the span of about four years, will end up costing closer to $8 million instead of the previously expected total of $6.5 million.

That’s because during construction, they ran into unexpected problems with the old sewer system.

Because the city and county had a capped limit for expenses, Tipton said they first will turn to the Department of Local Affairs to seek out the extra funding needed.

“I’m confident, and DOLA seemed confident, we’d be able to get these grants,” he said.

Also, the city and county are both tight financially because of low revenue. In 2013, Craig pulled from the reserve fund for the second year in a row to get out of the red. The city had to pull about $2.9 million to overcome the deficit. While the county didn’t face the same challenges, it had to plan conservatively for 2015 when it outlined plans for the upcoming budget.

At the city and county meeting, Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers advocated for ideas that would bring business to the area.

We should build “an amphitheater out at Loudy-Simpson. If we had one and had it set up, we could rent it. (We could) set it up as a county facility but have the city help run it,” Mathers said. “I think it’d be a real draw.”

Dave Pike, director of Craig Parks and Recreation, said a way to do that, or to increase entertainment revenues, would be to create a recreational district.

“Maybe we need to talk about a rec district,” he said. “It makes sense.”

The challenge would be that Craig and Moffat County would have to give up control of recreational areas they currently own.

“The city and county, they’d have to give their facilities to the district,” he said.

Moffat County Commissioner Chuck Grobe said there could be a way to do this, but they’d have to approach it gradually.

“Get the rec district established first,” he said, before planning too many projects the district would encompass.

Craig City Council member Kent Nielson said the city and county ought to consider cutting costs, as well.

“In my mind, I think we need to look at our spending. I think we’re overspending,” he said.

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers agreed that cutting could be a good move but that it was hard to determine where that extra money could be cut.

“We owe a certain amount of services to people. We can’t cut those,” he said.

Craig City Council member Joe Bird said the local dump is too stringent in its dumping policies, causing locals to dump their trash in other municipalities and counties. It could be a problem of misinterpretation of the regulations, he said. But the possible misunderstanding is costing businesses, he said.

“It’s putting a hurt on all the businesses,” he said.

One other cost-saving measures Mathers brought up was consolidating the Craig Police Department and the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office.

“It seems like it’d be a way to save some money,” he said.

Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta said the law enforcement staff wasn’t as abundant as may appear, and that sort of consolidation would prove a challenge for enforcement for Craig. The city would have less authority over the department.

“You can save money, but from a city perspective, as a rule, you lose control,” he said.

Contact Erin Fenner at 970-875-1794 or efenner@CraigDailyPress.com.

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