Moffat County Commission delays safety center negotiations |

Moffat County Commission delays safety center negotiations

With city election nearing, mayor questions whether request is politically motivated

Brian Smith

Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner has requested that negotiations with the Craig City Council concerning the Craig Police Department's lease at the Moffat County Public Safety Center, pictured here, be delayed for two months. Craig Mayor Don Jones said he thought the break in negotiations was politically motivated.

Two months.

That's how long Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner asked the commission and Craig City Council delay negotiations concerning the Moffat County Public Safety Center lease.

However, Danner and Craig Mayor Don Jones disagree about the reasoning for the discussion delay.

Jones and the city council discussed Tuesday night an e-mail from Danner sent to council member Gene Bilodeau asking for a pause in negotiations.

At the council meeting, Jones questioned the reason behind the break, saying it could be "political."

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When asked to clarify Wednesday, Jones said, "in two months, we have a city election."

"I will be gone," said Jones, who is term limited.

Jones and Bilodeau represent the city on a four-member negotiating team tasked with ironing out a lease price for the Craig Police Department's use of the county-owned safety center.

Jones said it was "just a guess" that Danner wants to wait until mid-April, after the city's election, which will include a new mayor, considering the two sides have been unable to agree on a price for the police department to stay in the safety center.

Danner, however, said Jones is mistaken.

"My concern is that we protect the relationship — this is not about just Don Jones and I or anybody," she said. "I want the relationship between the city and the county to be respected and I want to protect that relationship no matter who is in office."

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 2011, entails the police department receiving free rent at the safety center in exchange for 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, which would place the lease cost at $256,591 per year to the city.

However, talks shifted from an annual lease to a one-time purchase price.

But, the city council rejected the county's purchase price offer for the space, which totaled $1.083 million.

Jones said the city 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.

Jones said he wanted to explore the construction of a new building to house the police department, and in the meantime, meet with the county to draft a new, short-term lease of the police department's space.

In her e-mail to Bilodeau, Danner wrote she had concerns about such an action.

"My concern is this locks us into a line of discussion that ultimately will sever the partnership at the public safety center," she wrote. "This is not in the best interests of the law enforcement organizations in Moffat County.

"For that reason, I believe we should take a short break from our negotiations. I will contact you within two months after some additional consideration."

Danner said "additional consideration" may not take two months, however.

She said more time and consideration is needed for the two sides to reach a compromise and "make it workable to the city in their price range and ours."

"It is to give each of us time to consider with our respective boards other ideas for making that work as a purchase option at the public safety center," she said.

Danner said she chose to list two months in her email "rather than just leaving it open or saying 'Soon.'"

Jones said the city would honor the request to pause negotiations.

"Well, it is like we said (Tuesday) night," he said. "We can talk about it amongst ourselves, but if they are not willing to speak to us, then there is no sense in setting up a meeting."

The ball, Jones said, is in the county's court.

"We'll just leave it at that," he said.

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