New angle on recreation center |

New angle on recreation center

Residents debate whether to have extra tax pay for addition to city

Collin Smith

Lynne Herring is not opposed to a recreation center in Craig. She does not, however, want the community to pay more taxes to build it.

Herring, a Moffat County resident with a local, family-owned business, attended the Community Recreation Center Steering Committee meeting Tuesday at the Center of Craig, which was open to the public.

“Can you build a rec center without raising people’s taxes?” Herring asked a member of the project’s architecture firm, Denver-based Sink Combs Dethlefs.

“You can if you have a lot of money sitting in the bank, as a city,” answered Andrew Barnard, Sink Combs vice president.

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Barnard’s company helped consult, design and campaign for a tax-funded recreation center proposal in 2003, which failed at the voting booth. The Craig City Council recently approved a $20,000 allocation out of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department reserves to hire Sink Combs Dethlefs for the same duties it completed about five years ago.

Barnard appeared in person at the meeting Tuesday and gave a slide presentation of different recreation centers his company has worked with across the state and region.

During his presentation, he mentioned the “unusual” case of a recreation center in Ketchum, Idaho. It took about 10 years to raise the money, but a community group eventually collected about $22 million and built a YMCA in town.

Herring asked why the steering committee didn’t want to go that route. If corporate sponsors and private donors want to help shape this community, she said, then let them, but don’t ask for tax money.

Steering committee members expect to put a tax bond question on the April 2009 ballot asking local voters to increase the city sales tax by 1 cent, which Parks and Recreation Director Dave Pike said would generate about $1.5 million each year based on current spending patterns.

The city has a 2.25 cents sales tax on the books now, in addition to the county’s 2 cents sales tax.

Certain expenses – gas, electricity, groceries, farm equipment, machinery, machinery tools and charitable donations – are exempt from sales tax in Colorado.

In Craig and Moffat County, the tax applies to all other purchases, including retail goods. The recreation center tax, if approved as planned, would add 1 cent for every dollar in cost to those purchases.

For example, a DVD that costs $19.99 would be subject to an additional 20 cents in sales tax under the steering committee’s planned ballot question.

A portion of the tax would expire after a recreation center facility is built, with a portion remaining on the tax rolls to help subsidize operations and programs.

“Right now, with my income as it is, I have to decide between play or food, heat or play,” Herring said. “I don’t want to spend any more taxes on play. This is a great idea, and I’d love to have this for my kids, but let’s pay for it before we get it.”

Other residents in the audience initially assumed Herring didn’t support building a new recreation center.

“We’re trying to build a community, also,” one woman said. “I feel like if we build a good recreation center, we’re going to bring in good families.”

A man in the back of the room added, “The sales tax would be a penny on the dollar.”

After some discussion, Pike said it would be a great idea for the Steering committee to look at corporate and private sponsors. Their contributions could be added to Colorado Department of Local Affairs grants to make the facility as good as it can be and reduce the burden on local residents.

Barnard said the steering committee will meet again in the next four to six weeks, though a definite time and location are not set.

He expects residents at the next meeting to establish a budget limit and start to define what features are most important for Moffat County, such as pools, gyms and community meeting rooms.

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or

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