Craig City Council nixes Economic Development Department, approves 2019 budget | CraigDailyPress.com

Craig City Council nixes Economic Development Department, approves 2019 budget

Craig City Council members hears from residents.
Sasha Nelson/staff
Craig residents speak out about economic development Residents filled City of Craig Council Chambers on Dec. 11 to voice their opinions on a number of issues including a proposal to create a new city department of economic development.Those for and against seemed divided along generational lines with the self-styled “old bums” urging the council to spend funds to improve existing businesses, infrastructure and facilities and the “new bums” urging council to take visionary action to drive economic development.Here are excerpts (some have been paraphrased) from about two hours of public comments.Citizens against a city Economic Development Department “Representing retired old bums… I’m against economic development from the city… a few years ago we set up economic development and thought we were through with it… I don’t think the city has the funds to set it up. I don’t think we have seen results. …Drive around town and see problems that need to be fixed. …That’s how old people feel."– Neil McCandless, retired“This town is dirty, cruddy. We need to get some pride back into it… A lot of things to be improved... Compare Lake City, Minnesota and Red Wing, Minnesota, Lake City had viable buildings torn down. Red Wing took old structures and revitalized. It’s hard to find parking in Red Wing. Let’s maintain Craig as it is. …Craig has a good chance. I saw four booms in my lifetime and we can do it again.”– Albert (Al) Shepard, retired"I’d like to echo this sentiment. Al lives across from one of those places. I think we should take the money and focus on strengthening our codes and give some teeth to them. …Focus on clean up. Step back, allocate it to the community and clean up eyesores. …that should be our focus for a while."Mike Thompson, resident"Instead of an economic development department, money should be put into driving down high crime statistics."— Dave Wallace, residentCraft fairs that provide enjoyment and revenue now have an added $10 fees per application paid to the city resulting in a loss of vendors. “Why are we are talking about an economic development department when every time we turn around we are cutting our own throats? Why are we not getting rid of the $10 fees?"— Angela Poe, resident“We are for economic development. It’s how do we go about it. …We have lots of irons in the fire and never take one out and brand something with it. Not a lot gets done. The reason is funds. So where are the funds best spent? Snow removal, trash removal, and incentives, how much to plant seeds? Or address concerns? Give it a try to see if it works a little better for us.”— Dennis Frederickson, business owner “If we could get together and come up with solutions to vitalize the community we could see some concrete results rather than spend money to have someone promote our community.”— Yvonne Gerber, business owner“I agree with the old guys. …we really need to work together to save that museum. We want our city to support us. I want a thriving downtown.”— Sherry Frederickson, business owner“What I’m hearing is that economic development needs to be the local people. We don’t need consultants coming in. I think we need to support what we have here.”— Ann Irvin, third generation native of Craig“We elect you to do a job. With technology, there’s no reason you can’t do the economic development without adding $197,000 to the cost. We have supercomputers, I don’t understand why we can’t use the people we elect and pay to do the same job. Why create a department?­– Darrell Sparks, resident“To me, economic development is growth in your community. … We’ve grown from 11 employees to 27. It’s not a person in economic development who is doing that, it is the business people doing that. I think it is a waste of money to put it into a department. Many groups are working on it. ... Help pull the groups together.”— Amy Updike, business owner Citizens for a city Economic Development Department“The Chamber board are in full support of strategic long-term economic development and partnering with that.”— Jennifer Holloway, Executive Director Craig Chamber of Commerce“I support economic development under the city umbrella. They (Craig Economic Development Partnership) have done a lot. They need to be in a better place to do more. If we had a department I could see us actually doing something that is progressive and moving forward."— Lois Wymore“Economic development is an incredibly important thing we all need to consider. I think the city needs to take leadership and step forward to take it on. It’s a complicated profession that demands a lot of discretion. …We are looking at some big things that are going to happen and what we will hand to the next generation. I know it’s though to be a leader. What you are doing up here tonight, it’s tough. Vision is what you need, someone to take on the mantle to take it to its height. …Earlier tonight your city manager pointed out that an economic development department is your best choice, other choices can be made, but tonight you have the opportunity to dedicate this city to it’s future. I know you’ll have a process to get the right person in place. They will have huge responsibility and make less than the average guy down at the mine. Think and join other partners to work on visioning and get things accomplished. Put someone at the helm.”— Tom Kleinschnitz, resident“Two weeks ago we had a workshop with the city council and the entire board… all speaking in favor of an economic development department. The board supports this issue… the first time economic development has it worked is broadband. The city and CMEDP came together. We need to invest in our community… We could make it work as a partnership.”— Luke Tucker, chair of Craig Moffat Economic Development Partnership“I’m excited about Craig… We have a new building being renovated downtown, a new tractor dealership, look what the eye care building has done. Economic development is happening. We are starting to grow. We get great new leaders for pieces of our community. We get them and ask them to tell us what to do and then we protest. Why do we hire educated people and not listen to them? As a young bum… a business owner and a father of a 2-year-old, we struggle to define what economic development really is. … To help to define it I think about what it takes to have an educated person moved to Craig — we are the people we want to have in the community. So we have to consider, one, what will get us here? Two, what will keep us here? We’ve tried things that haven’t worked. If we could revitalize downtown, without a department, accountability, focus, or backing, why haven’t we? A lot of it comes from the chicken or egg — do we revitalize downtown, develop a rec center, or will they come and build those things? Meeker and Steamboat (Springs) are doing it right. They are investing in economic development and getting it right. …I’m in favor of keeping that momentum. I speak in support.”— Justin Kawcak, business owner“I have been very opposed. After listening to these comments, I think it’s a good idea for the city to oversee it. Maybe you should all take charge of that and I have faith that you’ll clean this town up. I am now in favor.”— Vicki Huyser, resident"I want to reinforce that economic development is redeveloping. It’s helping small businesses grow. What it takes is someone driving it. …You need a department and money to direct it. …I’m very much in favor of it under the city."— Randy Looper, business owner“We are in crisis mode here folks. He said we have about seven years until Unit 1 closes at the power plant and asked council members to ask themselves: “Have I done everything I could have done to move Craig forward and keep it alive?”— Jay Oxley, business owner 

CRAIG — It took three motions, but the Craig City Council, in front of a packed house on Tuesday, passed a 2019 budget, minus the Economic Development Department originally proposed when the draft budget was introduced to council at a workshop in October.

Before the meeting and again when the vote was called, Mayor John Ponikvar publicly asked council members if they had any other concerns in the budget besides the proposed department. They did not.

When the budget ordinance was raised, council member Chris Nichols made the first motion to adopt the budget, as presented, to include a new city department. His motion was seconded by Mayor Pro tem Derek Duran.

Nichols’ motion came after about two hours of public comment, and he acknowledged the council and the community were split.

“… We need a central focus,” he said. “I was not in favor of continuing the economic development program like we have in the past.” He went on to say that a department would offer a “fresh new start.”

Council members Jarrod Ogden, Joe Bird, and Tony Bohrer, however, stood firm in their decision not to support a budget if it included the new department.

“I agree with the majority of people who spoke. … I don’t think we need position to monitor or spend (economic development dollars),” Ogden said. Instead, he supported investment in “the right programs” to “improve businesses and structures already here.”

Bohrer agreed other programs and projects, such as helping support the library or museum, would be wiser actions.

“I have voiced my opinion against this since the beginning. I think it would be crazy to take $197,000 into this position. I don’t see how a department would fix anything,” he said.

Council member Andrea Camp, who had been in favor of the new department, said that, after hearing from the community, she wanted to slow down and consider it further.

“I think there are other ways we can do economic development,” she said. “We have a lot of great input and ideas. We need to have more conversation, and that may be creating a position within the next six months, but for now, I’m in favor of taking a step back, to slow down and do it effectively.”

Bird also said more time was needed.

“I don’t think the right conversations have taken place in the right timeframe. … We haven’t done enough to justify it,” he said.

Ponikvar, who brought forward research supporting the idea of the creation of an economic department by local government, also decided not to support the measure. He gave no reason for withdrawing his support.

When the vote was called, the first motion failed five votes to two.

A second motion was made by Nichols, this time proposing that $150,000 from the general fund be earmarked for economic development purposes.

That motion failed to find a second.

Bohrer made a third and final motion, seconded by Duran, to adopt the budget. It included a line item of a little more than $162,000 for economic development. During discussion, council also agreed to hold workshops in January and February to develop specific plans for the funds.

All council members except Nichols voted to approve the third motion, thus adopting the 2019 city of Craig budget without creating a new Department of Economic Development.

Residents had four opportunities to ask questions and voice concerns or support to the council — during public comment periods near the beginning and end of the meeting, a public hearing on a ordinance to raise water and wastewater rates, and a public hearing on the budget that was added to the agenda with unanimous council approval.

“I think you are premature in economic development until you clean up this town,” said resident Jane Morley. She and neighbor Vicki Huyser spoke about their concerns of “black hoodie” wearing lurkers, signs of occupancy in condemned houses in their neighborhood, and feelings of being unsafe.

The women set the tone. After comments on other matter of concern, residents, Darrell Sparks, Neil McCandless, Albert Shepard, Mike Thompson, Angela Poe, Dennis and Sherry Frederickson, Yvonne Gerber, Ann Irvin, and Amy Updike all spoke against creating a Department of Economic Development.

In one of the more light-hearted, yet serious, exchanges, McCandless said he was there “representing the retired old bums” who did not believe the city had the funds to support it and wished to focus first on improving “the trashy areas” of the city.

Several speakers later, and speaking in favor of creating the new department was Justin Kawcak, who said: “As a young bum … a business owner. and a father of a 2-year-old, we struggle to define what economic development really is …” He continued by saying that, to him, it represents the things that will get people to move to the community and keep them here, adding that a department of dedicated people tasked with, and focused on, measurable goals was needed to drive the effort.

His sentiment was supported by comments from Jennifer Holloway, Shannon Moore, Tom Kleinschnitz, Lois Wymore, Luke Tucker, Randy Looper, and Jay Oxley.

After a public hearing and second reading, council unanimously adopted Ordinance No. 1081 (2018) to amend sections 13.48.010 and 13.16.010 of the Craig Municipal Code to increase the water and wastewater rates.

The in-town residential base rate will increase $0.60 per month, and the rate per 1,000 gallons will also increases by $0.05. Residential sewer (wastewater) rates will increase by $0.95 per month, and commercial rates will also increase. The increases will begin in January.

Council will be asked to approve similar increases each year until 2023 to service payments on a bond issue to finance upgrades to water treatment, wastewater systems required by state and federal laws, and other needed projects.

“After 2023, we should be able to sustain these rates for a number of years in order to meet the projected obligations,” said city manager Peter Brixius.

Read more about the proposed changes, and increased fees, including public comments, in next week’s Craig Press.

Council also introduced Ordinance No. 1082 (2018), which proposes the adoption of new landfill fees for residential and commercial refuse collection. Council members do not vote on the introduction of an ordinance, and the first reading is expected at the next council meeting, set for Jan. 8.

Within the consent agenda, council members approved a public hearing Jan. 22 before the second reading of the rate increase ordinance.

Read more about new landfill fees in next week’s Craig Press.

Before the vote on action items, members of the Augusta Wallihan Chapter National Society Daughters of the American Revolution presented to council a proclamation to designate Dec. 15 as Bill of Rights Day.

The proclamation was unanimously approved by the council and states, in part:

“I, John Ponikvar, by virtue of the authority vested in me as mayor of the city of Craig in the state of Colorado, do hereby proclaim Dec. 15, 2018, as Bill of Rights Day and ask our citizens to join the Augusta Wallihan Chapter National Society Daughters of the American Revolution to observe the day in a manner that brings to mind the meaning and importance of each of the 10 articles contained in the Bill of Rights. Additionally, the mayor asks everyone in Craig to read, study, and learn the contents of the Bill of Rights.”

During the meeting council members also unanimously approved the following:

• Minutes from the Nov. 27 meeting 
and November 2018 bills.

• A consent agenda including a special events permit for Craig Rotary Club for the Diamonds and Spurs Dinner and Dance event, being held at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Jan. 26 and two public hearings at the Jan. 8 council meeting, one for an application for a brewpub liquor license for Aylor Inc. and Yampa Valley Brewing Company-Barrel Cathedral, located at 576 Yampa Ave., and a second to inform citizens and solicit public input, written or oral, regarding the 2019 Water System Improvements Project Needs Assessment.

• Canceled the month’s second regular council meeting, which was scheduled for Dec. 25 — Christmas Day.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting:

• Chief of Police Jerry DeLong answered questions regarding the November 2018 monthly police report.

• Brixius provided his monthly report to council, starting by saying he was happy they had a 2019 budget.

• City Attorney Sherman Romney spoke about the affidavit submitted to initiate a petition asking voters to allow the sale, manufacturing, and growing of retail marijuana. He also asked council members if they were comfortable allowing the city’s water attorney to also act as counsel for a group looking to develop a recreation district. Romney was told council would support his decision.

• Council members each provided a report of recent activities performed on behalf of the city.

Craig City Council will meet again Jan. 8.

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