Marketing District approves $275,000 in expenditures | CraigDailyPress.com

Marketing District approves $275,000 in expenditures

Members of the Moffat County Local Marketing District Board review a request for funding made by Craig Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Christina Oxley.

CRAIG — Municipal broadband infrastructure and the Craig visitor information center are both set  to receive a boost after the Local Marketing District Board approved a total of $275,000 in funding for the projects.

The board approved $250,000 — half allocated this year and the other half to be allocated in 2019 — to the Moffat County Broadband Initiative following a presentation by Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership Executive Director Michelle Perry.

The money will be used to leverage grants expected to provide the remainder of the estimated $4.1 million needed to build the countywide network and will only be paid if grant applications are successful.

The county will act as co-applicants for grants, along with network owners, the city of Craig.

Operational funds are expected to come from fees paid by local governments and public institutions for internet services. The financial model projects positive cash flow year-over-year, which will provide resources to invest in future infrastructure or decrease annual costs to public entities, Perry said.

The network will not provide direct services to businesses and residences and will instead sell access to internet service providers eager to connect their customers to a high-speed, redundant, high-capacity system.

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The next step in the process will be to complete grant applications — the first of which is due Aug. 1 — while preparing contracts needed to build and operate the system.

LMD board member Randy Looper asked what would happen if the project failed to receive grant funding or if one of the entities didn't agree to a service contract.

"It would mean redesigning the network so that we could still make it cash flow without that customer," Perry said.

LMD board members also approved a request from Craig Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Christina Oxley for $25,000 to help fund the Craig visitor information center, which is operated by the chamber. The money will compensate for funds normally provided by Moffat County.

The laws governing marketing districts allow them to fund visitor centers, but not member services, prompting board Treasurer Chris Jones to ask how the chamber intends to track the money to ensure it isn't going to member services.

In answer, Looper, who is also on the chamber board, replied, "It's easy to do. We just need to separate it out — percent of building, heat, salaries — just create new line items. That's not to hard to do."

Board members — with Looper abstaining — to approve funding with the stipulation that they receive a budget breakout with specific visitor center operations.

The board also:

• Approved minutes from the last meeting.

• Received a report on financials, including first quarter revenues from the lodging tax. The LMD has a fund balance through June 2018 of more than $475,000, prior to recent allocations and new liabilities.

Jones said the lodging taxes from the first four months of the year were volatile.

"It's tough to see what the rest of the year is going to do. It's just an unknown with all the weather conditions, firefighters might have created a boost," he said.

Looper asked if Moffat County Director of Finance Mindy Curtis was able to provide the board with information about late or delinquent lodging tax papers.

"The county has gone through a number of transitions, and I'm not sure if they have the resources to do that," Jones replied.

• Heard a presentation by Sheli Steele, Craig Press advertising manager, about opportunities for advertising in Colorado Hunter magazine — a 45,000-copy publication that goes out to all out-of-state hunters and Colorado's 13 visitor information centers and is distributed across Colorado.

• Approved a new LMD logom first used by the board for a banner displayed during Whittle the Wood.

• Received a report from MoCo Trails organizer Clark Cleverly about trail building projects at Cedar Mountain and Loudy-Simpson Park, as well as new proposals the group is working on with Routt County Riders to map trails and identify eventual improvements along the Yampa Valley Core Trail and the Duffy Mountain trail system.

"We wanted to inform the board about our group and what we are trying to do to bring more people here and to increase community wellness in life here. And, see more people get out and explore," Cleverly said. With the help of Routt County Riders, the trails group is pursuing grant funding opportunities and may return to LMD with a funding request.

During discussions at end of the meeting, the board talked about the application process for funding requests and decided that when individuals or organizations ask for money, they must complete a form. They also discussed the ex-officio board and speculated about when the next meeting might be scheduled, given that a meeting previously scheduled in July was canceled.

"We will work to get a new date scheduled," said Craig City Council member and LMD Ex-officio Board member Chris Nichols.

Before voting to adjourn, board members also discussed their upcoming budget process and encouraged organizations and individuals to begin providing them with a sense of the kinds of projects, programs and funding that might be needed in 2019.

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

To apply for LMD funding

Revenues are generated through a 4-percent lodging tax.

The LMD board allocates funds to support, enhance, encourage and develop programs that lead to economic diversification by increasing business retention, development and recruitment in Moffat County, including funding for special events. State law governs what can or cannot be funded.

To request funding, a common grant application must be completed and may be found at colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/cocommgrantapp.pdf.