MCTA funding questioned |

MCTA funding questioned

Community Foundation concerned about request denial

Collin Smith

The Community Foundation of Northwest Colorado plans to write a letter to county officials expressing concern about how the Moffat County Tourism Association approves funding requests.

The foundation submitted an $8,000 request to the MCTA, which was denied at its Wednesday meeting. Board member Patricia McCaffrey abstained from the vote because of her affiliation with the Community Foundation.

Foundation member Sasha Nelson said the organization plans to write a letter to the Moffat County Commission expressing concern the board acted “fast and loose” when denying the request.

Nelson and Pam Foster, also a Community Foundation board member, approached MCTA with a request to fund a new venture by Cowgirl Adventures, a private business that operates out of Sombrero Ranch, located west of Craig.

Cowgirl Adventures plans to offer a four-day guided horseback tour across Moffat County for as many as 15 “lady executives” in 2009. The Community Foundation agreed to help the business find funding partners, and Cowgirl Adventures will give the foundation one quarter of its proceeds from the event.

Out of the $8,000 request, half would be for advertising, and the other half, Nelson said, would be for “seed money” to hire a business consultant to advise Cowgirl Adventures on how to expand.

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Board member John Ponikvar questioned whether MCTA should fund advertising for one private business.

“Are we going to be giving this money for you to make a profit?” Ponikvar asked.

Nelson responded the guided ride would be an effort to strengthen Moffat County’s tourism industry by promoting a local tourism business.

“They may, quite frankly, profit from this,” she said. “We cannot have tourism in this community without private business.”

Board members also had other concerns.

First, spending $8,000 for a 15-person event would equate to spending $533 to bring one person to Moffat County if the event is limited to 15 people.

Taken as a whole, Ponikvar added, spending $8,000 on a four-day trip for 15 people wouldn’t be a good use of county tax dollars.

He did, however, agree that such a business is exactly what Moffat County needs.

“What we need to do is develop a sustainable tourism base,” Ponikvar said. “If you would develop this and have people coming every week or every two weeks, then you would have something.”

After the meeting, Nelson said she was bothered that MCTA doesn’t seem to have set funding guidelines. She pointed out that the county statute governing lodging taxes – which make up all of MCTA’s budget – does not stipulate that the money can’t be spent advertising a private business, and no information she received from MCTA had that requirement, either.

The board did approve about $8,917 in various other expenditures Wednesday, including $5,000 for Grand Olde West Days and $3,000 for the 2009 Wyman Museum Winter Festival. The Wyman Museum, which sponsors the Winter Festival and holds it on museum grounds, is a nonprofit organization.

Representatives for both events said they would use all of the money for advertising – mostly radio spots and magazine ads outside the area.

The group also approved $917 to contract a company to develop joint Web sites for MCTA, the Craig Chamber of Commerce and the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership.

After Wednesday, MCTA has about $80,000 left of $155,000 budgeted for this year, most of which Ponikvar said would be rolled over to 2009. A lot of the remaining dollars were set aside to pay a staff person and never was used because the county only recently agreed to accept an MCTA employee on its payroll.

Ponikvar added that it is probably a good thing for the county to have that money, because tourism revenues are expected to dip next year. That will directly impact MCTA’s budget, because it is funded by taxes on hotel and lodging stays.

Director search update

The Moffat County Tourism Association entered an executive session during its Wednesday meeting to discuss potential hires for its executive director position. The matter was allowed to be kept off public record because it deals with personnel issues. Afterward, the MCTA board reported it had 14 applicants, which have been narrowed to three to invite for interviews at 1 p.m. Dec. 9.