Visitor Center project inches forward |

Visitor Center project inches forward

Groups formally commit to concept; resident agrees to research costs

Collin Smith

After almost two hours, various community and government representatives said they all support the concept of expanding the Moffat County Visitor Center.

Members of the Craig Chamber of Commerce, Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership and Moffat County Tourism Association met with officials from the city and county Tuesday night at Craig City Hall.

The plan is to expand the Visitor Center and build offices for EDP and MCTA staff, a bigger conference room and an enclosed foyer separate from the main offices so people can find flyers, brochures and a phone at all hours.

“I think it will be a well-worth project, and I think it is a wise decision,” Craig Mayor Don Jones said at the start of the meeting.

No one disputed his statement, but it wasn’t until the meeting was about to end that those attending agreed to support a draft contract arrangement outlining how the different parties will pay for the estimated $200,000 construction cost.

Under the agreement, the city and county each will pay 35 percent, with the Chamber, EDP and MCTA responsible for 10 percent shares.

Officials also expect the group will have to split architectural fees, which are assumed to be 8 percent of the project cost, or $14,000.

None of the groups will have to put any money down immediately as a result of their commitment to the concept.

Craig resident Dave DeRose, who attended the public work session, volunteered to get informal construction estimates from local builders based on a rough design donated by Steamboat Springs-based Robert Ralston and Associates.

Officials present at the meeting originally thought they would have to come up with $14,000 to pay an architect for a more detailed design plan before they could get accurate bids for the project.

Without a definite project cost to look at, EDP Director Darcy Trask and board chair Scott Cook said they were leery of investing money in a project they were unsure their organization could afford.

Cook also questioned the motive for building the expansion.

“It seems like this idea came about as a way to get the three groups (EDP, MCTA and the Chamber) to work together,” he said. “I think we are working together, and working together well. I hope that we don’t spend the money like this to fix something that isn’t broken.”

Other groups, such as the Moffat County Commission, were unsure they should give money to a project before other issues are worked out in writing, such as future shared costs of the building and staff, ownership rights between the Chamber, EDP and MCTA and how one of those three groups could move out of the Visitor Center if it wanted.

“It’s just like any business agreement,” county commissioner Tom Gray said “You get the details in writing before you sign.”

DeRose’s offer solved the problem of putting money up front that day.

County and city officials’ commitments to not take any funds they contribute to the building project away from their normal annual allocations to EDP also helped ease reservations.

Several officials at the meeting lamented the inability for people to come together behind a project they all agree is what the community wants and is in the community’s best interest.

Gail Severson, who was with the Chamber when the Visitor Center originally was built several decades ago, said the community turned out en masse for that project.

Citizens and businesses donated materials and time to make it happen.

“What are we doing here,” she asked. “We’re arguing, we’re nickel and diming. I know it’s 20 years later; it just makes me sick.”

Jones also criticized EDP, MCTA and the county for losing sight of the spirit behind the project – to come together as a community – and instead becoming sidetracked about how to make sure someone doesn’t cheat them later.

“Each time we get a little closer, it’s all about, ‘What’s in it for me?'” the mayor said.

DeRose plans to have informal construction estimates by next week, at which point representatives from the five groups will meet for continued discussions.

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