Economic Development Department narrowly passes council |

Economic Development Department narrowly passes council

The mayor's gavel sits at the dais at Craig City Hall.
Cuyler Meade / Craig Press

After a narrow passage of the ordinance’s final reading by the city council, the city of Craig will have an economic development department on the books.

Last week, Craig City Council met in a special meeting to discuss the department along with concerns surrounding small business grants that were given out in previous years. At that meeting, it was decided that the council would follow the staff’s direction as to how to handle it, since transparency was one of the main concerns of creating it in the first place.

Specifically, staff wanted to be able to delineate what the city was spending the money on in terms of economic development. Before the department’s creation, the money that is used for economic development comes from the city council budget. Since the money flowed through council, it made the council budget look abnormally large when the council itself did not spend or designate where that money was going. With a defined department, spending on economic development would have its own designated space in the budget to see grant money and other funds flowing in and out.

“The recommendation we made was to maintain the transparency,” city manager Peter Brixius said at Tuesday’s regular council meeting. “We could live with it either way, but it’s easier to track history from year to year if we do it in a manner that (finance director ​​Katy Burns) has developed the budget. So that is the staff recommendation.”

The new department — including funding for payroll and other expenses — is funded by grant money for the next two years. If the future council were to decide to defund the department after those grant funds run out, they can vote to do that when the time comes.

At the special meeting last week, the council discussed whether or not they could simply create a budget line or separate pages for the economic development committee’s spending. Now-former council member Andrea Camp mentioned that the Museum of Northwest Colorado and the Yampa Building both have separate lines in the 2022 city budget, but there are no departments for either of those entities. However, city attorney Heather Cannon said that ordinances probably should have been passed before those lines were created.

There was no public comment made for or against the ordinance.

The motion to create the department passed 4-3. Council members Chris Nichols, Andrea Camp, Bruce Cummings, and outgoing mayor Jarrod Ogden voted to approve while now-mayor Ryan Hess, Paul James and Steven Mazzuca voted against it.

Council welcomes newcomers to their ranks

Shortly after the vote for the new department, newly elected council members, mayor and the new police chief were sworn into their positions. One of those new council members is Sean Hovorka, who thanked the community members who voted for him and said he is looking forward to serving the community.

“I’m sure that there will be moments where we won’t agree on something — the way that we’re moving forward,” Hovorka said after taking his seat on the council. “However, I am open to conversation and criticism. I’m going to take any opportunity that I can explain why I’m voting the way that I’m voting, or how I feel the way that I feel. I know that diversity is the spice of life, so we’ll get through this. And we’re headed in a great direction.”

Fellow newcomer Jesse Jackson echoed Hovorka’s thanks to the community.

“I am excited to try to represent you the best I can and learn as fast as I can so we can work together,” Jackson said. “I’m excited for the opportunity.”

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