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RANGELY | Tuesday the Rangely Development Agency and town council met for a combined goals and strategy meeting facilitated by the Department of Local Affairs. The meeting was attended by town council members Lisa Hatch, Andy Key and Andy Shaffer, along with 10 RDA members.
Kimberly Bollen, DOLA regional manager, kicked off the meeting reviewing the vision for the RDA and Better City program, “Working to Make Rangely Great Again” including the goals of attracting businesses and building a diverse economic base.
The Better City project began in 2015 with community interviews and meetings. The 2016 contract included goals such as student housing and retail options for CNCC students. By early 2017 that goal had migrated towards an improved grocery operator situation and by July focus was on a call center and community marketing video. However, since the beginning of the program encouraging development of an airplane maintenance and repair operation or MRO, program has been a reoccurring goal.
Bollen wanted to know what had happened between 2016 and mid-2017 to cause such a major change in goals saying that Rangely needs to, “avoid changing for the sake of change.” Reasons cited by attendees included issues with CNCC expanding the flight program, Colorado Mesa developing a competing program, disagreement within the RDA and community pushback. Concerns were raised about the impact of recently passed state statues regarding the make-up of the RDA board and the fact that the RDA is potentially out of compliance, to which Bollen recommended the RDA seek advice from an Urban Renewal Authority attorney. The most recent Urban Plan Renewal Area was established in 1992. The plan will need to be redone, potentially along with a Blight Study.
Town Manager Peter Brixius informed the RDA that they should be coming up with an annual budget and description of projects they would like to undertake. RDA Chairman Brad Casto expressed concerns that the all volunteer RDA board would not have the ability or time to take on a task that large. Several RDA members responded that they felt the Better City project development had been tasked to them from the Town Council. Casto suggested that the RDA consider dissolving the RDA and putting the work back onto the Town Council who could then rebuild the RDA to be made up of primarily Council members. “The city council has the people and the staff that can facilitate,” he said, “Sometimes I think those elected officials are held more accountable than appointed.” Brixius said that according to an attorney he has spoken to, dissolving and reestablishing the RDA would take approximately a year and a half.
The conversation focused on the future of the board for much of the meeting. RDA member Sarah Nielsen asked, “Do we want to fix this board or start over?” The RDA agreed to discuss the issue and present their thoughts to the town council.
The group discussed projects for 2018 which include the MRO and call center development as part of the Better City project. Chairman Casto suggested the need for increased communication with the community and involvement. A reboot of the grocery store was again discussed, with County Commissioner Jeff Rector saying it could happen if it had a “real champion.” RDA member Sarah Nielsen stated that the community doesn’t support the current grocery store and asked why they would support a new one. RDA member Vince Wilczek said that he believes that the purpose of businesses is to support the local community, not self interest. The group expressed interest in exploring a cooperative style grocery store and will renew their research into the topic.
Other suggestions included a co-working space, hemp or marijuana operations and a need for marketing of the community. The discussion about the possibilities for marijuana grow and distribution operations got slightly heated. Currently marijuana distribution is not allowed in the town or county and several members stated that they didn’t believe the tax revenue generated by marijuana would be worth bringing it into the community. The group decided marijuana operations would not be an RDA initiative, however any individual may bring a petition to put the issue on an election ballot.
There are currently two MRO possibilities in the works. One facilitated by Better City and one by Tim Webber and Andy Shaffer. Both businesses are currently working on a business plan to present to the RDA and council.
The group discussed how to market the community, which is currently headed by the Chamber of Commerce with the county as a partner. They are utilizing a marketing plan developed in 2015. According to County Economic Development Coordinator Katelin Cook there is already grant funding available for the purpose of community marketing.