Special mill levy likely to appear on November ballot to support museum, libraries in Moffat County | CraigDailyPress.com

Special mill levy likely to appear on November ballot to support museum, libraries in Moffat County

David Tan/Craig Press

CRAIG — The Moffat County Board of County Commissioners is expected to file a letter of intent for an initiative to appear on the November ballot asking voters to approve a special mill levy to fund the Museum of Northwest Colorado, Moffat County Libraries and, possibly, Loudy-Simpson Park. A citizens task force presented the proposal for the tax initiative to commissioners during a meeting Thursday, June 28.

Commissioner Ray Beck said the county had hired a consulting company about three months ago to help identify possibilities and make suggestions for increasing revenue in the county.

The consultants developed a list of influencers — citizens representing a broad range of the community — that would be able to assist commissioners in determining how best to raise revenue for the county. The commissioners met with these influencers, now known as the Community Task Force, three times. In their last meeting, the Community Task Force recommended the commission move forward with the mill levy.

Museum of Northwest Colorado Assistant Director Paul Knowles said the main point of the meetings was to address a $1.7 million cut to the county budget, which was made to avoid deficit spending going forward. The cuts were significant to the museum, libraries and parks in the county. The museum has an estimated year and a half worth of money in reserve to fund its operations.

“We need to stress the point that the county is in a financial situation,” said task force member Doug Winters, who spoke for the group, many of whom were in the room. “They are really hurting for money. … The people don’t even know the county last year cut $1.7 million out of their budget in order to stave off the deficit.”

More cuts could be coming in the future. Winters said he’s happy the task force was assembled to brainstorm ideas about how to save services for the county. The task force thinks the museum, libraries and parks are essential to the community and believes they need to be maintained for the community to grow.

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Combining services with the city of Craig is a possibility, Winters said. Both the museum and libraries are within city limits, and city leaders have a vested interest in maintaining them.

According to Winters, the libraries reported receiving about 6,000 people last month, and museum officials said about 12,000 people visit each year, with half the museum visitors coming from out-of-state and some from outside the country. He also said the museum is currently ranked as one of the top visitor locations in the state.

“Knowing we have these valuable entities, we need to do what we can to save them,” Winters said. “Nobody wants to move to a community with no library or museum with historical markers or a park system.”

The task force plans to work on specifics, such as the amount of the proposed mill levy and whether the levy would also support Loudy-Simpson Park. The group will also determine if the proposed mill levy would include a sunset clause.

Winters thinks that, if the mill levy doesn’t pass, those three important entities will be gone for good, and if they are gone, the county will slowly go with them.

Commissioner Frank Moe added that a mill levy wouldn’t be a “silver bullet” that solves the county’s budget problems, but he said it would buy time to develop and implement a long-term solution. Knowles agreed with Moe, saying the levy won’t solve the problem, but it will give them time.

In other business, commissioners approved:

• Hiring additional security for the county fair, another full-time social caseworker, another full-time weed and pest manager, a full-time mechanic for the road and bridge department, a part-time finance specialist and two grounds maintenance technicians.

• An agreement with the Bureau of Land Management to lease use of the airport for $3,000 per year for 20 years and to bill the BLM $50,000 for two new heli pads — which will enable landing helicopters without damaging the runway. The county will build the heli pads for BLM use at the facility. Both the city and county had set aside $25,000 for the project. That money will not be needed as a result of the BLM funding.

• A lengthy consent agenda.

• A resolution closing the clerk and recorder’s office July 9 for training and election canvasing.

Commissioners also signed:

• A memo of understanding with the Brown’s Park School Alumni Association for the lease of the historic school building for $1 per year for the next five years.

• A letter of support for the 2018 BUILD grant application for the Colorado State Highway 13 Safety Project. The money will fund improvements to the highway between Craig and Interstate 80 in Wyoming.

• A comment letter to the BLM regarding the agency’s travel management planning process for the survey of BLM travel management area number three.

• A resolution allowing one commissioner to enter land use agreements with the BLM during emergency situations.