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