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Visitor Center draft reviewed

Collin Smith

With nobody firmly opposed to the idea, the Moffat County Commission and Craig City Council are prepared to negotiate facts and figures for expanding the Moffat County Visitor Center.

According to a draft agreement reviewed by the county and city Tuesday, they would be responsible for a majority of the project’s costs.

The goal behind a Visitor Center expansion is to build enough room for MCTA and the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership to join the Chamber in the same building. Commonly, the venture has been referred to as creating “one-stop shopping” for residents and tourists.

The draft agreement states construction would cost about $200,000, though Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner said that is a high-end estimate. An architect also would need to be hired for about 8 percent of the project cost, or about $14,000.

Chamber Executive Director Christina Currie said the group plans to seek grant funding to offset the local cost and perhaps even form a nonprofit foundation, if necessary.

The Chamber, MCTA and EDP would each pay 10 percent of the remaining cost not paid by grants. The city and county would split the remaining 70 percent.

Commissioner Tom Gray said he’s not sure he could support donating $70,000 of taxpayer money for a Chamber-owned building.

But, he is willing to find a solution.

Because the Chamber is willing to give MCTA rent-free space for a time, and MCTA would have to pay for rent elsewhere, the tourism association could pay money to the county general fund each year until the county’s contribution to the building project is paid back, Gray said.

“Then, the taxpayers could be reimbursed for the capital that was up-fronted for that part,” he said.

Gray said he had to credit Commissioner Tom Mathers for that idea.

Another possibility would be for the Chamber to split ownership, like the county and Colorado State Patrol did with the Public Safety Center on First Street, Gray said. That way, taxpayers would receive a definite value for their money.

Before the commission can agree to fund the project, county budget analyst Tinneal Gerber said it needs to weigh the expense against other projects with capital funding set aside: the Moffat County Courthouse, fairgrounds and senior housing.

“I guess it just depends on the priority of the board and where you want those dollars,” she said.

Those considerations aside, the three commissioners said repeatedly that they support the idea of expanding the Visitor Center.

“I could look at this and find some things to disagree with,” Mathers said of the draft agreement, “but I agree with the concept.”

For one thing, the project was the commission’s idea to begin with, Mathers added.

No city councilors voiced any disapproval when the draft agreement came up at their meeting later Tuesday night.

Councilor Terry Carwile, who works part-time for the Chamber, said he hopes whatever discussions take place from here ultimately lead to an expanded Visitor Center.

Councilor Jennifer Riley added now is a good time to build for those who have the money because the lull in the construction industry has tempered prices somewhat.

Mayor Don Jones said he was glad to see definite progress.

“It’s a goal we had a year and half ago, and it’d be good to see it through,” he said.

City and county officials plan to meet with the Chamber, MCTA and EDP at 5:30 p.m. May 26 at Craig City Hall to discuss the proposal at length.


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