Editor’s Column: Weighing in on Better City proposals

As mentioned in a previous column, one of the hardest parts of reporting on a story is seeing

Niki Turner
all sides of an issue and not being able to choose a position. Nowhere is this more difficult than when reporting on a project that impacts the community.
I understand the disgruntled residents who are still seething and stewing about the Justice Center because of its location, the loss of the old elementary school, or just on general principle. I also understand that if the commissioners hadn’t gone forward with the project when they did, the state would have swooped in and forced us to pay for a justice center of the state’s choice and design and cost because what we had was not compliant with state mandates. I also remember the arguments about keeping the Justice Center downtown or moving it out by the hospital. If I remember correctly, downtown businesses were deeply concerned that the loss of traffic related to activities at the courthouse would negatively affect their businesses, especially with the hospital out of town, too.
I also remember the contention over the Meeker Recreation Center—location, size, amenities included, whether there would be enough lanes for the swim team to host a meet, even the color(s) of the building’s exterior.
And I remember the battles about the elementary school and the hospital.
We weren’t here when Meeker stuck its neck out for economic development and recruited outside manufacturers to town back in the ’80s, but I’ve heard plenty about how those efforts harmed the town and the taxpayers, and how because of those bad experiences we shouldn’t ever take any economic development risks again. We don’t hear as much about Rocky Mountain Bowstrings, which was, and is, an economic development success story.
Anytime change is proposed, there will be conflict. That’s a given.
I raised four kids. Propose any kind of change in plan and at least one kid was guaranteed to disagree (usually the same kid), albeit usually for a reason that seemed perfectly valid to that child. Maintaining family harmony required a delicate balance of diplomacy, debate and promoting unity, and we didn’t always succeed.
I’ve been listening to, reading about and reporting on the various Better City proposals for close to six months, playing catch-up on more than two years of studies and concept design and planning already accomplished.
There’s a lot of chatter going on, particularly about the Meeker Adventure Center and other aspects of Better City’s proposals, both in Meeker and in Rangely. There’s also a lot of misinformation and assumption being passed around like a bad stomach virus.
My conclusions thus far?
As a cynical skeptic (my husband is the “big idea” guy, I’m the foot-dragging ballast), I’m the first to doubt a new idea, the last to come on board. I’m not a risk-taker, and as such, the financial questions and concerns about how these proposals will be funded, and whether they are financially viable are a real concern for me.
At the same time, the other half of my brain (the half that’s imaginative and optimistic) sees some definite potential in these proposals. This could be an opportunity to create something else new and different that we can all be proud of for years to come.
Is there risk? Yes, of course. There’s risk in every endeavor. There’s also risk—perhaps more so—in doing nothing, or in waiting for the next energy boom instead of acting now.
We’re never all going to agree on every component—I’d rather see us promote a small-scale ski area and unplug the hot springs, for example—but since those things aren’t on the table (and I don’t know if they’re even possible), can we come together and agree on something else for the greater good? Where can compromises be made? Are there ways to test the viability of these proposals by implementing “test” versions?
As has been stated multiple times, none of the concepts Better City has presented are written in stone. They’re all subject to change.
In the meantime, before you air your grumbles on Facebook or at the coffee shop, go read the actual proposals. If that doesn’t answer your questions, go ask one of our elected or appointed officials or call or email Better City. That way you’ll get actual information, not just the opinion of your equally uninformed neighbor who just happens to agree with you.
And, just a thought, maybe don’t gripe at all unless you can produce a better idea, and back it up. The status quo is rarely the better option, by the way. When growth and progress are not carefully cultivated, two things happen: things start to die off and weeds begin to take over.

Mother Nature is teasing us with little hints of spring. I know winter’s never officially over around here (who else remembers wearing boots and down coats for Fourth of July fireworks?) but it sure is nice to have these little glimpses of warm weather and sunny days in between storms.