Letter: Questions about outdoor center

lettersubmissionsDear Editor:
Kudos to the town and county for sponsoring last week’s economic development open house. I appreciated the information presented to the public. I feel very strongly at this stage in development that it is important the public stays informed. I did take the time to talk to the Better City representative and to read through the plan. That said I have a lot of questions. The open house format left me unable to ask them all. Below are my questions as well as information I gleaned from the meeting, and from reading through the county’s economic plan. My biggest concern is my lack of understanding of choices involving the Outdoor Adventure Center. Better City’s original proposal presented a variety of projects to choose from: age-in-place housing (which would benefit the local hospital, rec center and bring in above minimum wage jobs with nursing aides), a USDA packing plant (for which there was interest from a local investor) that could connect with a culinary arts school and possible farm fresh to table tie, an intermediate processing plant for Natural Soda, recruiting location neutral business to town aided by our recent internet expansion, and the shooting center proposal. The Better Cities CEO informed me that the choice of the Outdoor Adventure Center as a project was made by the county commissioners and the town council. Why did we choose the only tourism-based option of the bunch as our project? Tourism-based projects tend to be more seasonal and also less stable sources of income in a declining economy. This project is very fluid. The location of the Outdoor Adventure center is ultimately up to the investor; the center’s location has not been pinned down—could be up river, could be north of town or in town. The center’s emphasis has now become archery instead of the high tech shooting range, although the shooting range continues to be included. With these changes does the size of the building still need to be as large? Is the same high tech laser equipment intrinsic to an archery center? I love that we are trying to attract auxiliary outdoor businesses (i.e. clothing/gear manufacturers ). Do we need the range part of the center to do this? Adam Hughes, Better City CEO, stated that we have hired them solely to facilitate the Outdoor Adventure Center project. All other economic development projects are at the town’s expense and initiative. Can the town afford to contribute to both the Outdoor Adventure Center and its own development projects in a time of declining funding? How much have we paid to date and how much will we pay Better City that is not included in the $10 million Outdoor Adventure Center price tag? Are we paying them a salary towards facilitating this? What is our financial commitment to them beyond the scope of the $10 million for the project itself? Funding specifics in the Better City report has the county, town and rec district listed as local funding sources for $3 million (for $3.8 million in another place), the state and federal entities are to provide a further $4.1 million in grants and donations towards the Outdoor Center. Is this feasible given declining federal, state and local economies? I noted the Better City budget breakdown of $235,790 from city and county for contract modification No. 1 did not have the opportunity to leverage any grant funds due to its timing and decreased financial resources of the granting agencies. The flavor that sets Meeker apart from other small Western Colorado towns is our historic town square, our slower quiet pace of living, and the relative lack of pressure on our wilderness areas. How do we promote increased usage and maintain these attributes? Do we have a good zoning/concrete town plan in place? How does a 68,000 sq ft. building fit into this? My big concern is that the public doesn’t understand the Outdoor Adventure Center project: its costs and scope, or our commitments. Communication is a two-way street. With a project this large it is important our governing entities know where the public stands, and it is equally important the public itself gets out and makes an effort to ask questions. Without the public behind it—particularly our rather vocal town—no investor is going to want to commit. So please attend the meetings, ask your questions—everyone (both our representatives and the public), and read the paper. We are all responsible for moving our town forward in whatever direction that may be.
Pat Daggett
Meeker