Craig and Moffat County officials hammering out museum transfer
Correction: This report has been corrected to reflect Commissioner Don Cook asked if the city could use a portion of its existing sales tax to fund the museum.
Moffat County commissioners are moving closer to transferring ownership of the Museum of Northwest Colorado to the city of Craig.
In a discussion Thursday morning, Nov. 7 at the Moffat County Courthouse, commissioners met with City Attorney Sherman Romney, City Manager Peter Brixius, Mayor Jarrod Ogden, and Councilman Chris Nichols, as well as Dan Davidson and Paul Knowles from the Museum of Northwest Colorado to discuss moving the museum off the county’s balance sheet and onto the city’s.
But commissioners want to transfer the building in a way that still protects the interests of county residents.
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“The perception is we’re taking away from county residents,” said Commissioner Don Cook.
Ogden said he wants only to preserve the museum for the public.
“We’re not out after anybody’s assets,” Ogden told the group. “We aren’t out to seize anything. It’s about preserving this for the citizens of Craig and Moffat County.”
“The people will still have access,” Nichols said.
Nichols explained the city pulled out of it’s part in owning the museum on or about the year 2000, when the county acquired ownership. According to prior Craig Press reporting, in 1999, county commissioners stepped forward to purchase the museum’s gun collection, allowing the foundation to repay the purchase price plus interest to the county over time. The county would essentially act as the financier, and the purchase became an investment that earns the same rate of interest as other Moffat County investments, according to a Craig Press report in 2000 when Museum of Northwest Colorado Foundation transferred approximately $200,000 to the county as the first payment on the Cowboy and Gunfighter Collection.
“There’ve been times the city’s been up and the county’s been down and vice versa,” Cook said. “That could happen again.”
Nichols is confident the city can provide the stability Craig’s museum needs.
“I see this as a more stable funding in the long run,” Nichols said. “…This way we know it’s an entity — a department of the city that we’ll have to fund just like any other.”
Moffat County Attorney Becky Tyree said she was confident she and Romney could draft language in an intergovernmental agreement so if the city decides they “don’t want the museum 20 years from now, the city and county get an equal say in what happens.”
Commissioner Donald Broom said he’d like to take whatever intergovernmental agreement they draft to county residents for approval.
“We have to make sure they’re comfortable with this,” Broom said of county residents.
Much of that agreement could center around contracts and energy royalties from holdings bequeathed to the museum in wills over the years. The museum’s Dan Davidson said some of the museum might still be owed unpaid royalties, so some title work may have to be done. Davidson said this year’s royalty payments are down compared to past years.
“This year it will probably only be $10,000,” Davidson said.
Romney is confident he can help the museum get it all sorted out.
“It’s not just the transfer of the minerals. It’s the transfer of all the operations,” Romney said. “… I can help you with the easy stuff, then we’ll have a goal for all the rest.”
In an interview Tuesday, City Manager Peter Brixius said the city is exploring financial mechanisms that could provide the museum with it’s own permanent source of funding.
“They need a permanent funding source,” Brixius said. “I think that’s going to be something the city works on in the coming years.”
Cook asked if it were possible to dedicate a portion of the city’s recently passed sales taxes by a small amount.
“Would it be possible to fund the museum through a two tenths of a percent sales tax?” Cook asked.
Mayor Ogden replied council is open to all ideas.
“We’re open to any idea we can find that will put more funding in their laps,” Ogden said.
Ideas of permanent funding mechanisms discussed also included an enterprise fund and a special district capable of imposing mil levys. City Attorney Sherman Romney explained they’ve got some work to do in this area.
“We’re just at the beginning of finding future funding for our museum,” Romney said.
Councilman Nichols said he hopes this becomes another great example of the city and county working together.
“I hope this is a new era of us working together on stuff like this,” Nichols said. “…I hope we continue fostering more projects that are mutually beneficial.”
Commissioner Ray Beck called the city and county’s museum transfer collaboration “monumental,” adding residents of Craig and Moffat County want to see both bodies working together.
“They want to see us getting together and working on their behalf,” Beck said.
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