Letter: How best to develop the concept the Center for Outdoor Adventure? Public vs. private funding?

Dear Editor:

Mr. Magid’s guest editorial in the Oct. 22 Rio Blanco Herald Times “Comments on the financial risk of the proposed Center for Outdoor Adventure”, and the page 1A article by Niki Turner in the Sept. 22 Rio Blanco Herald Times “Proposed Outdoor Adventure Center would be a one-of-a-kind ‘destination attraction’” present very different views. Both views have some merit. It seems obvious some direction is needed. Some points to consider: 1. Demographics: “Logistics are more of a challenge in Meeker, which is why the center is the size and scope that it is. If a smaller investment were made, it would likely lack the ability to convince potential patrons to travel the extra 50 miles to come up to Meeker.” ~Kelby Bosshardt, Better City. MSZU Indoor Shooting Range in Ulm, Germany is the model used for the public funding proposal. Ulm, population of about 118,000, is 60 miles from Stuttgart with a population of close to 600,000 and 100 miles from Munich, population of 1.3 million. 2. Reserve funds: “…the county and other local public entities sit on $100-plus millions of reserves that could be used proactively to invest in making the community a viable destination for private investment.” ~Kelby Bosshardt, Better City. Suggestion: The “reserves” that might look like $100 million appears to ignore that a considerable amount of the funds are restricted as to use and earmarked for multi-year projects currently in progress. Cities and counties must keep working capital, working cash, available. A minimum of 25 percent of the annual budget needs to be maintained. With the downturn in oil, gas and coal 50 percent would be prudent. Glenwood Springs maintains upwards of $40 million in reserves. An independent audit providing insight into the use of the funds and the dollars available seems necessary before moving forward on large expenditures. Meeker Town Administrator Scott Meszaros states, “While the center is anticipated to cost approximately $10 million for the more than 65,000 sq. ft. complex, the town’s taxpayers wouldn’t be footing the bill. By using tax increment financing (TIF) to subsidize any public investment would be repaid over time.” Author’s note: Tax increment financing (TIF) subsidies are one of the most powerful and important tools currently available to cities to promote redevelopment of blighted properties. TIF is like a redevelopment credit card—we can buy new projects now and pay them off with future tax revenue. But like a credit card, TIF subsidies pose risks and should be used carefully. TIF imposes real costs on taxpayers. (Reference: Front Range Economic Strategy Center. p. 57. Retrieved 29 August 2015.) Bottom line, if the center does not generate sufficient added taxes, the public pays the bill. The model, as proposed, can only be viewed as very high risk. There are simply too many unknowns. I respectfully suggest Meeker City Council and the Rio Blanco County Commissioners follow the model used by then Mayor Gus Halandras to facilitate the development of bowstring manufacturing in Meeker. Gus helped build private, locally owned business. Suggestions: 1. Work with Rio Blanco County business and startups to develop and grow. Include expanding the concept of being the Center for Outdoor Adventure. 2. Work with local banks for access to money and help assure businesses have the accounting and legal advice necessary to be successful. 3. Use local banks to access the guaranteed loan program through the Small Business Administration and the USDA Office of Rural Development. Center for Outdoor Adventure is a strong concept and powerful marketing tool. The difference comes in how best to develop the concept. I’m suggesting a decentralized private structure that is funded by guaranteed loans to the individual businesses as they develop different segments of Rio Blanco County.

Respectfully,

Joe Livingston

Meeker, Colo.