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Final CRAFT workshop features recreation ‘rockstar,’ action plan

CRAIG — Over the course of the past 12 weeks, stakeholders have gathered to learn and plan a path toward building tourism into a more vibrant and sustainable economic driver as part of CRAFT Studio 101 workshops. That work will culminate on Friday, Nov. 16.

“The most important things that have happened out of the CRAFT sessions is the start of a discussion on tourism in our community. Having everyone start to speak the language of tourism and understand concepts is significant. For example, visitor readiness will make our entire community ready for trade and attracting more business, and everyone stands to benefit from that,” said Moffat County Tourism Association Director Tom Kleinschnitz.

CRAFT — Colorado Rural Academy of Tourism — Studio 1010 is a comprehensive training program offered to select rural communities through a technical assistance grant provided by the Colorado Tourism Office with local support from Moffat County Tourism Association and Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership and the Craig Chamber of Commerce.

The CRAFT grant provided six full-day training workshops to Craig, with five held in September, October, and November, as well as $10,000 to help with the implementation of strategies developed.

During the sixth and final workshop, small groups of stakeholders who have participated in the past will complete the action planning worksheets and re-convene as the large group to formulate these into the plan. Finally, individually, group members will reflect on their role in the shared vision.

“The group will individually and collectively pledge to implement the identified actions,” Kleinschnitz said. “The most important thing we can do is find short-term wins for our county and set the direction of the future of tourism in Moffat County. I’m really glad our community has had this opportunity.”

To help sustain the momentum, Luiz Benitez, director of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, will speak at the final workshop. Benitez is an accomplished mountaineer, having summited Everest six times. He’s also a formerly from the Western Slope and lived in Eagle before being tapped by Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2015 to become the first director of the newly created OREC.

“The office is one of the first of its kind in the nation. Luiz is an incredible cheerleader for the outdoor industry and will be sharing some remarkable statistics on its importance,” Kleinschnitz said. “It’s not like the car or pharmaceutical industry, with a number of large businesses; rather, it’s made of a mosaic of small businesses. It’s at the grassroots of our economy.”

The final CRAFT workshop begins at 8:30 a.m. Friday in Room 185 at Colorado Northwestern Community College, 2801 W. Ninth St.

A majority of the MCTA Board of Directors will attend.

The public is welcome to attend and participate and may choose to attend only Benitez’ presentation, which is expected to get underway at 1 p.m. Reservations are required.

For more information or to make a reservation, contact mcta@moffatcounty.net or 970-824-2335.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

CSU Extension to hold estate planning workshop in Craig

CRAIG — CSU Extension's Leaving a Lasting Legacy farm and ranch succession and estate planning workshop will be held in from noon to 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, in Room 175 at Colorado Northwestern Community College, 2801 W. Ninth St.

Learn to avoid making the mistakes many farmers and ranchers make when trying to determine how their ag business moves to the next generation in this fun and educational program.

Lunch is included in the $25 registration fee. For more information or to register for the workshop, call 970-879-0825, or visit rcextension.colostate.edu.

Economic Development Partnership board to meet Wednesday

CRAIG — The Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership Board of Directors will host its monthly board meeting from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, in room 175 at Colorado Northwestern Community College, 2801 West Ninth St.

Meetings are open to the public.

For more information, call 970-620-4370 or email director@cmedp.com.

Moffat County Economic Trends — Countywide sales taxes up from February

CRAIG — In March, Moffat County collected more than $211,000 in sales taxes from an estimated $16.4 million in gross sales. Sales tax collection was up by more than $20,000 from February.

The 2-percent county sales tax is shared with the city of Craig and the town of Dinosaur, which receive .75 percent from sales within their jurisdictions. The county receives 1.25 percent.

From the total countywide sales tax collected in March, the city received a little more than $176,000, the town of Dinosaur a little more than $2,700, and Moffat County a little more than $31,000.

April

In April, Moffat County collected more than $214,000 in taxes from an estimated $16.7 million in estimated gross sales. Sales tax collection was up by about $3,000 from March.

Sales tax collection in April was lower by more than $13,000 than the same month in 2017. Following the trend, gross sales were also down by almost $600,000 compared to April of 2017.

In April, the city of Craig received more than $177,000 in sales taxes, the town of Dinosaur a little less than $4,300, and the county a little more than $33,000.

May

Sales tax collection received a boost in May, rising to more than $576,000, an increase of more than $340,000, or 1.45 percent, from 2017. The increase was attributed to an increase in gross sales of $46.5 million, $28.6 million higher than the same month in 2017.

According to Moffat County Finance Director Mindy Curtis, this was the result of an occasional sale tax resulting from the sale of business assets. "It was a one-time boost in revenue," she said.

The city of Craig received most of the windfall, adding more than $354,000 in sales tax revenue. The town of Dinosaur received a little more than $2,700 and Moffat County a little more than $35,700.

June

Sales tax fell in June to about $254,700 estimated gross sales of more than $19.6 million. However, June sales tax revenue was the second-highest to date, and estimated gross sales were also up from 2017, when gross sales were about $18.9 million.

Much of the increase in sales were attributed to stronger-than-normal sales in Dinosaur, where gross sales increased from about $280,000 in May to more than $870,000 in June."The state system does not break sales out by business type, so we are unable to drill down into the source of the increase at this time," Curtis said.

The city of Craig reaped more than $199,000, and Dinosaur gained more than $10,500. The county collected a little more than $45,000.  

July

In July, more than $256,000 in sales tax was collected from more than $19.4 million in estimated gross sales, down slightly from June but up by a little less than $26,000 from the same month in 2017.

Of the taxes collected, the city of Craig earned a little more than $197,000, the town of Dinosaur a little more than $3,000, and the county a little more than $55,852.

The county portion of sales tax revenue represented an increase of more than $32,000 from 2017. It was the second time in 2018 the county portion increased from the prior year. In January 2018, county sales tax revenue rose 8.89 percent from the same month in 2017.

August

Compared with July, sales tax revenue dipped slightly lower in August, with a little less than $252,000 collected from more than $19.5 million in gross sales. Sales were performing well in Dinosaur, at more than $690,000, an increase of more than $438,000 from July and more than $441,000 from the same month in 2017.  

From the total county collected sale tax revenue, the city of Craig received a little more than $201,000, Dinosaur a little more than $8,300, and the county a little less than $42,000.  

Moffat County sales tax is collected by the state and received by each entity two months after collection. Estimated gross sales are based on the assumption that all reporting taxpayers are reporting on or before the due date.

Next week's trends report will look at the amount of lodging tax collected by the county to support tourism and economic development initiatives.

CRAFT workshop to focus on long-term planning

CRAIG — The Moffat County Tourism Association will host its fifth CRAFT Studio 101 workshop from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8, in Room 185 at Colorado Northwestern Community College, 2801 W. Ninth St.

CRAFT, an acroynym for Colorado Rural Acadamy of Tourism, is a 12-week, comprehensive training program provided to select rural communities that are in the beginning stages of building tourism into a viable and sustainable economic strategy.

Thursday's session will focus on long-term action planning and implementation of ideas generated during the first four workshops. The group will focus on the key points developed thus far, with an eye toward connecting those points to an action plan.

Specific, long-term actions will be identified and assigned to owners, and timelines and deadlines will be set.

Thursday's sessions will also deal with developing a vision for what success will look like, as well as troubleshooting for when efforts go off track.

Funding options will also be discussed.

The public is welcome to attend and participate, but reservations are required.

For more information or to make a reservation, contact mcta@moffatcounty.net or 970-824-2335.

Town of Hayden turns to Routt County Building Department during construction boom

HAYDEN — With the town of Hayden experiencing a building boom, it was important to have a system in place that ensured codes were being followed and builders were getting the support they needed in a timely manner.

To meet that need, the town hired the Routt County Regional Building Department.

“It’s just running so efficiently, and they are so responsive,” Hayden Town Manager Mathew Mendisco said.

“Our contractors have even complimented that they are far and above what we were getting before,” Mendisco said. “The most important thing is that they’re available for requests for information and answer questions from contractors within 24 hours.”

Mendisco said that was not the level of service they were getting before switching to Routt County.

In recent years, the town had been contracting out its building department services to SAFEbuilt, based in Loveland, and there had been a notable drop in the quality of the service after a longtime employee of the company left.

“That was kind of a very sudden thing,” Mendisco said.

With a continued affordable housing crisis in Steamboat Springs, there were no signs of construction slowing down, so Hayden town officials knew they needed to make a change and look elsewhere for building department services.

“It’s probably one of the most important things we could do,” Mendisco said.

In 2015, the town had only a single building permit pulled. There were a total of 22 permits pulled in 2017, and there have been 41 so far this year.

“Those are huge increases,” said Mendisco, who added he thought the number would be even larger if there were more construction workers to do the work.

The town put out a request for proposals for building department services. SAFEbuilt did not submit one.

The town interviewed the two organizations that turned in proposals, including Routt County.

“They (Routt County) were just far and above what the other company was going to be able to offer,” Mendisco said.

The town signed an intergovernmental agreement, and Routt County got to work in July.

“The transition went smooth,” Routt County building official Todd Carr said.

In fall 2017, the Routt County Building Department added two more employees to handle the increase in construction the Yampa Valley was seeing.

Carr said this has allowed the building department to meet the demand, even with the addition of Hayden.

Now, Routt County is handling all the building department needs for the entire county, including the city of Steamboat Springs, which at one time considered not having Routt County handle its building department services.

“I think we’re rare as a county to provide service to the entire county,” Carr said.

Carr said he thinks the county's current building department setup works because of its population and location.

“The goal of running a building department is breaking even as much as possible,” Carr said.

In addition to overseeing commercial and residential projects, the county is now certified to handle building services for public schools.

That will soon be useful for the town of Hayden as the Hayden School District embarks on construction of a new school campus.

The school district hopes to break ground on the project this spring.

Contact Matt Stensland at 970-871-4247 or mstensland@SteamboatPilot.com, or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.

Energy Blend: Oil, gas production at 10-year low in Moffat County

Sluggish oil and natural gas production in Moffat County could deliver the worst year in a decade.

Annual production data for Moffat County over the past 10 years.

According to data from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, by July 2018, production was less than half the total for 2017, and the number of producing wells had fallen from more than 700 in January to only 150 in July. Production for the year is also trending below amounts for each of the previous 10 years, from 2008 to 2018.

The peak of natural gas production in Moffat County, as for most of the state, was in 2008, before prices for natural gas fell on the global commodities market.

That year, according to COGCC data, more than 20,000,000 MCF (thousands of cubic feet) of natural gas were locally produced. As natural gas prices were falling, global oil prices had risen, and in 2013, oil production peaked in Moffat County at nearly 500,000 barrels.

Sales of natural gas produced in Moffat County also appeared to slow in July 2018, with about a third, or 20,244 MCF of the total amount of natural gas produced — about 66,238 MCF — in the county in July was burned by flaring. This compares to the 39,871 MCF sold. Natural gas is often a byproduct of oil production and may be burned off in the flare for the oil well without equipment to capture, store, and sell natural gas.

Table showing the amount of oil in barrels and natural gas in thousands of cubic gas (MCF) produced January through July in Moffat County in 2018.

The trend in Moffat County mirrored a decrease in production across the state. Colorado law requires oil and natural gas producers to deliver monthly reports on each well’s production.

The number of producing wells in Garfield County dropped from 13,332 in January to 1,677 in July. Rio Blanco County went from 4,177 producing wells to 127 producing wells. Routt County started the year with 38 producing wells and ended July with 20 producing wells. And, in Weld County, thought to be one of the most productive areas on the Front Range, the number of producing wells dropped from 25,992 in January to a mere 1,221 in July.

Even so, Colorado continues to be among the top states. In June 2018, the state production of crude oil — according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration — trailed Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, New Mexico, California, Alaska, and Federal Reserves of the Gulf Coast, but was almost twice the number of barrels produced in Wyoming.

Annual production in 2017 adn 2018 through August for neighboring counties and Weld County.

No complaints were filed against operators in 2017 or through the end of August 2018.

Two spills, or releases, from wells operating in Moffat County were reported to COGCC in 2018. Wexpro investigated a release in March and, in April, identified the point of origin as a well in the Wilson area. In August, a well formerly operated by Texaco in the Moffat Dome near Hamilton was reported for a release that appeared to result from older, historic flow lines, as there are several older plugged and abandoned wells and flowlines in the vicinity. Four operators had remediation plans primarily associated with pit cleanup.

Seven new drilling permits were approved by August 2018 for wells in Moffat County, compared to 80 permits approved in Rio Blanco County, nearly 500 in Garfield County, and more than 1,900 in Weld County during the same time period. No new wells were permitted in Routt County from January to July 2018.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Energy Blend: Despite local increase, Colorado offers second-lowest energy rates in country

Moffat County Resident Linda Pinnt noticed an increase in her electric bill in August. She said her bill increased by $50 between July and August, even though she thought she had used about the same amount of electricity, and suspected the installation of a new meter might have contributed to the increase.

Pinnt is one of many Northwest Colorado residents who are paying more to keep the lights on following rate increases by Yampa Valley Electric Association.

YVEA — a not-for-profit electric cooperative serving more than 26,000 homes and businesses in Northwest Colorado and Carbon County, Wyoming — is owned by its customers, and rates are set by a board of directors elected by those customers. The recent rate increase was based on a study done in 2016 that determined, “rates must be adjusted to cover the rising cost of expenses and distribute the costs to our members on a more equitable basis.”

YVEA purchases power from the Western Area Power Administration — a federal agency that primarily markets and transmits power generated from 56 hydroelectric plants and  the Navajo Generating Station coal-fired plant near Page, Arizona — and Xcel Energy, which in May announced, “one of the most aggressive carbon-reduction goals in the industry by cutting carbon emissions 35 percent.” And by 2030, Xcel plans to cut emissions back to 2005 levels, exceeding the goals of the Paris Climate accords.

But the change might not be as bad as it seems.

Despite the rate increases, when WalletHub — a website that offers free credit scores, full credit reports, and “the brain of an artificially intelligent financial advisor” — compared the total monthly energy bills in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Colorado came out as the second lowest, with an average monthly energy bill of $252. Wyoming residents, who face an average monthly energy bill of $372, ranked as having the highest costs in the nation.

In contrast, Atmos Energy customers should have noticed a decrease in natural gas prices when the Public Utilities Commission approved a request for a rate decrease in June.

“The commission and Atmos Energy have acted quickly to pass on the savings from the Tax Cut and Jobs Act,” according to the notice.

Natural gas is a commodity traded on international markets. Atmos Energy rates are determined by the Gas Cost Adjustment, a figure calculated annually and based on the forecasted gas commodity cost, forecasted upstream service cost, and gas price management costs incurred by the company. Rate adjustments must also be approved by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

Comparatively lower rates may not comfort those trying to make ends meet.

“I hate to see what winter is going to be like,” Pinnt said.

Both Atmos Energy and YVEA offer qualified customers budget billing, a payment method that averages the bill through the course of the year to keep monthly payments more consistent. Both companies also offer tips for improving efficiency and helping keep costs low.

To learn more visit atmosenergy.com, and click on “Ways to Save,” or visit yvea.com/content/yampa-valley-electric-association click “Energy Efficiency.”

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Energy Blend: Dominion Energy joins companies supporting Moffat County health care

CRAIG — Dominion Energy will give $10,000 to help build a new medical office building in Craig.

Operating in Northwest Colorado as Dominion Energy Questar Pipeline, the company formed about a year ago, when Dominion Energy merged with Questar.

Dominion owns and operates about 2,000 miles of pipeline, transporting natural gas in six major producing areas, including the Greater Green River, Uinta, and Piceance basins to markets across the West and Midwest.

“Company-wide, we have a large foundation that grants a lot of money every year,” Porter said.

Redbud trees were given to Moffat County Educators through Project Plant It earlier this year, and in 2013, the company supported the Memorial Hospital Foundation in Craig to help purchase an electronic medical records system for the hospital.

The new $10,000 gift will help the Memorial Regional Health Foundation in its goal of raising $1 million to leverage matching dollars from sources outside the community. The foundation is nearing that goal, having now raised about $820,000.

"The campaign is still going and is in full swing," said MRH Foundation Executive Director Eva Peroulis. "We appreciate the support."

The 60,000-square-foot Medical Office Building will be adjacent to the hospital on an existing 17-acre lot. When complete, it will replace the clinic on Russell Street, which was built in 1949 as the original hospital and is "a hodgepodge of several add-ons that have been cobbled together over the years," according to MRH officials.

The project bears an estimated cost of $29 million, including equipment and furnishings. The health system’s general operating budget, grants, and a USDA loan will pay for the new building. No new tax mills or bonds are being considered for the project.

Dominion's announcement of support came in September after Trapper Mine gave a $25,000 donation earlier this year.

Trapper Mine — after the Bank of San Juans and Severson Supply and Rental — was the third company to step forward with a $25,000 donation.

"I'm new to the area, but the mine has had a long history of supporting the community. Our donation continues that long history of support," said mine President and General Manager Michael Morriss when he presented the check in January.

During efforts to build The Memorial Hospital, Trapper Mine, Rio Tinto, Shell Oil, Questar now owned by Dominion, Entegra Gas Pipeline, and Peabody Twentymile Coal Company all donated.

"They were a significant part of the success in raising money to build the new hospital," said MRH Foundation President Kristine Cooper.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Energy Blend: Trapper Mine ‘good neighbor’ to Moffat County

Trapper Mine is a good neighbor, and it has the award to prove it.

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement in August awarded Trapper Mine the Good Neighbor Award, which is given to mines for outstanding commitment and innovative in mining and reclamation practices. It is an award the mine is proud to receive, Trapper Mine General Manager Michael Morriss said.

The mine has a history of receiving awards, such as the Sentinel of Safety Award, which Morriss described as the “Stanley Cup” of mine safety awards and the highest honor any mine can receive for safety.

The Good Neighbor Award, he added, isn’t handed out lightly.

“It’s an award that acknowledges our reforestation efforts and community efforts,” Morriss said.

But Trapper’s contributions to the community go far beyond that.

Employees and mine administration have been involved with building a soccer field, sponsoring Loudy-Simpson Park, working with the Moffat County United Way on improvement projects, and taking a leading role in other efforts to improve the community, Morriss said. He added he is very proud of the mine’s efforts.

National Mining Association president Hal Quinn said Trapper’s efforts demonstrate its sustained commitment to environmental stewardship, as well as its mission to provide the nation with the affordable, reliable energy needed for growth.

“This recognition is well-deserved,” Quinn said. “It is a testament to their relationship in sustaining a great legacy.”

Trapper Mine administrators were invited to Washington D.C. to receive the award in late September. Morriss added that is the first national award the mine has received since he became manager about a year and a half ago.

Production up; safety highlighted

Aside from the award, the mine continues to perform well, overall.

Morriss said 2018 production was up by 2.2 million tons, leading to the hiring of 25 new employees. Jobs are posted fairly regularly, he added, many of them mechanic jobs with good benefits. About 200 employees currently work at Trapper.

The mine has also made strides in terms of employee safety, improving its three-way radio communication system and giving employees more detailed briefings about their jobs. Morriss said the mine is dedicated to promoting a culture of safety.

The mine purchased a new excavator earlier this year, which has improved efficiency by about 45 percent, Morriss said. He added Trapper is continually exploring other means of improving efficiency without risks to employee safety.

Asked about the Trump administration’s relaxation of regulations governing the coal industry, Morriss said the changes have had very little impact on Trapper and its operation. He added, however, that the Trump administration has been fairly positive for the coal industry.

Trapper Mine currently has a coal contract with the Craig Station that will end in 2020.