Museum of Northwest Colorado could be history within next year after budget cuts
Personnel with Museum of Northwest Colorado say the establishment will run out of money in less than a year and be forced to close its doors if officials don’t act to reinstate the museum’s gutted funding — a development county and city officials say they’ll be working in the coming months to fix.
In May, the city of Craig and Moffat County initiated a discussion to jointly fund Craig’s Museum of Northwest Colorado and the community’s libraries. Commissioner Ray Beck met with city councilors Chris Nichols and Brian MacKenzie along with other city and county staff to explore what a city-county partnership would look like in regard to keeping the community’s libraries and museum open.
The discussions came about due to county commissioners drastically cutting the funding for the museum and libraries in 2018 and 2019 budgets. A November 2018 ballot initiative that would have funded both the libraries and museum failed to pass muster with voters.
Paul Knowles, assistant director of the museum, said the defeat “was a little disheartening but not horrible considering that was our first time on the ballot and considering how angry people were with commissioners in the first place.”
Knowles has been making the rounds these past few weeks, making presentations to the county and city about the museum’s drop-dead date when they’ll run out of money and be forced to close the doors. According to Knowles’ projections, the museum will be forced to close June 2020.
Knowles said the only reason they’ll be able to stay open that long was folks who voted no on the ballot initiative came forward in droves this year and donated tens-of-thousands to keep their museum afloat.
“A lot of those donations were from people who voted no,” Knowles said.
He added those who donated felt like county commissioners were trying to blackmail voters into raising taxes.
“That was a no vote to being blackmailed… into justifying another tax,” Knowles said.
In May, Commissioner Don Cook said some tough decisions had to be made about the budget and the library and museum cuts were to help the county’s financial standing.
“If you were looking into the future and you could see that the way you were currently running your business right now, you’d be broke,” Cook said. “Would you change your business?”
But now the county and city are both in better financial standing after the county’s budget cuts and a city sales tax increase, so officials with Craig and Moffat County are signaling their financial support for the museum and libraries.
“I think we do need the library and we do need the museum,” said new Moffat County Commissioner Donald Broom in May. “I have two kids of my own who use the library at Maybell. To me it’s a very important thing and I’m for that.”
Commissioners Beck and Cook have since both signaled they plan to hash out any possible additional funding as part of their ongoing budget discussions — which will wrap up October 15 — in conjunction with the city of Craig’s joint services group.
“We are starting to make some good strides on that,” Cook said of museum and library funding discussions with the city. “More cooperation is always good.”
Beck didn’t make any promises, but he agreed commissioners would be working with the city to reinstate some museum funding.
“The joint working group is in discussions about this, so as we work through our budget, I think there’s an exerted effort to see what we can do on both sides,” Beck said.
Commissioner Broom seems ready to do his part in the library-museum budget talks, also.
“I guarantee we’ll do the best we can do to keep those going because they’re important to me too,” Broom said.