Letter to the Editor: Rethink uses for old elementary school

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Dear Editor:
I have recently returned home from what has become my annual visit to your fine town. I am a Colorado native (grew up in Denver) who now lives on the East Coast. But my family has generations-long ties to Rio Blanco and Moffat counties.
My grandfather, Russell Coles, was Moffat County treasurer for many years. And my great-grandfather, Joseph Mills Craig (who had a ranch on Milk Creek), and two of his sons, my great-uncles, rest in the Meeker cemetery. We still own part of the Coles family ranch in Axial Basin. It is while on my summer trip to the ranch that I pay my annual visit to Meeker.
During my stay there this year, I learned of the proposal to “re-purpose” the disused elementary school into jail space. I must say I find that a very bad idea.
Meeker’s town center, the courthouse and town square is a place of great charm and appeal, not only to town residents, but to people from outside, like myself. It is a big part of what makes Meeker so important to me (and I am sure to others from outside).
I can still feel the Colorado of my childhood there. Anything done to alter the character and historic authenticity of downtown Meeker would be a grave mistake, in my view.
The increased housing of prisoners (I am aware that some are now held in the courthouse itself) there is a particularly unsettling prospect and seems patently unnecessary. There must be many other sites better suited that would not diminish the great appeal of the town’s center — its heart.
I do not pretend, as an outsider, to be fully plugged into all that is in play when it comes to running a city like Meeker. I am sure there are financial considerations that I don’t grasp. (I do realize that my reactions are largely of the heart.) However, I’m convinced that I cannot be the only vacationing, money-spending outsider to find the lure of Meeker’s comfortable downtown sidewalks and shops so powerful. Those summer evenings of music on the courthouse lawns cannot tug at me alone. Others from outside must feel the same allure.
That is, to come to Meeker and spend a few days (and a little cash), visit your museum, shop in your shops, read a book in the wonderful rooms of the Meeker Hotel and have a meal in the cafe. In short, come back home and relax a bit … spending a bit of money there along the way.
That too, I hope, will be a consideration that is given a fair hearing.
I respectfully urge you to consider what intangible assets those are — and irreplaceable, once they are lost — that make your wonderful town so rich. These are values that also weigh on the ledger books.
David H. Coles
Washington, D.C.