Stalemate over EDP funding |

Stalemate over EDP funding

Commissioners and City Council at odds

Collin Smith

— Lines were drawn in the sand at a joint meeting between the Moffat County Commissioners and the Craig City Council Tuesday night at City Hall.

The commissioners are unanimously opposed to any further government funding of the Economic Development Partnership, while the City Council is unanimously in favor of continuing that funding.

All three commissioners pointed to their constituents’ voices as one of the largest factors in reaching the decision.

“After this (opinion to cut EDP) kind of came out, I went out and asked people what they thought we should do,” commissioner Tom Mathers said. “I got no positives. I’d like to have a couple say they’re in favor of EDP just to know that any support is out there.”

Former mayor Dave DeRose made the case that sometimes the right thing to do isn’t always the popular decision.

“One of the last things we did while I was on the council was put in water meters at a cost of about $1 million, and that almost got us recalled,” DeRose said. “Turned out to be one of the best decisions I was ever involved in.”

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EDP is asking for $25,000 from each of the city and the county – more than it asked for last year. Although that may not appear to be that much money, EDP has collected more than $1 million from local government in its 22 years, Mathers said.

“All we get is words, words. I don’t see any actions,” Mathers said. “If EDP had ever stuck a golden shovel in the ground, then I’d see their worth.”

City Council members said EDP deserves more time, both because the current board has a better plan and better direction than boards in the past, and because its mission is so important to the community.

“This group of people is very used to working in the boundaries and expectations of what (the commissioners) described,” councilor Terry Carwile said. “If it ain’t with this group of people, I don’t think it can get done.”

Tayyara remains doubtful EDP can find a director, even one paid a full-time salary, who would benefit Moffat County in any meaningful way.

“They have never had a director more than three years,” Tayyara said. “Most of the ones they have hired have been here for the paycheck, I think.”

The future financial vitality of Craig also factored into the debate.

Mayor Don Jones said Craig is no longer limited in its economic scope the way it has been in the past.

“I don’t think we’re a small town anymore,” Jones said. “We’re in the middle of the biggest oil boom in the United States. Now is the time to attract those businesses that follow the oil companies.”

Mathers cautioned against being too optimistic about Craig recruiting the kinds of manufacturing businesses the EDP wants to target. The business reality for Moffat County is not as attractive to some businesses as EDP believes, he said.

“How are you going to bring primary businesses here when there’s nowhere for their employees to stay?” Mathers said. “How are you going to keep a business staffed that pays $10 to $15 an hour when the mines pay $25 to $30 an hour?”

City Councilor Rod Compton disagreed with Mathers. The city will see investment in the housing market when businesses invest in the economy and bring in workers that will increase the demand.

“I think that’s the tail wagging the dog rather than getting our priorities straight,” Compton said. “To say all those things in the past haven’t worked and so let’s not do it anymore is the same thing as saying let’s leave Craig the same way it’s always been. I’m not saying that. I’m doing what I’m doing because I want Craig to get better.”

While it is true there are some aspects of the economy that are uncontrollable, such as the effects of having a strong local natural resource industry, there are still parts that can be nurtured, said Scott Cook, EDP Board of Directors president.

Cook accepted responsibility for having former directors who did not perform their duties well, but also said the organization has a better vision of what they need out of a director.

“We’ll take responsibility for everything the last three directors did wrong,” Cook said. “This time we have a plan for what we want them to do before we hire them.”

In other action

At its regular meeting Tuesday night, the Craig City Council:

• Approved a liquor license for Vallartas Restaurant Mexican Cuisine, 1111 W. Victory Way

• Approved a plan to have Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative review the pools at City Park to evaluate problems and solutions.

• Approved an ordinance vacating a portion of a street right of way on Bethel Avenue.