RDA grocery discussion continues

RANGELY | The Rangely Development Agency met last week where they heard updates on various economic activities around town including a potential end to the county oil and gas impact fee moratorium as well as entered into an occasionally heated discussion about the Rangely grocery situation.
RDA member Tim Webber informed the board that he and two other RDA members recently met privately with White River Grocery owner Darren Hill where Hill expressed concerns that the RDA and Town of Rangely were misinforming people that Hill intends to close the store. According to Webber, Hill said he doesn’t want to close the grocery. However, Rangely Mayor Joseph Nielsen said that last fall Hill informed him and several other RDA members that he would be shutting down the store at the end of December at which time Nielsen asked Hill if he would be able to keep open a little longer, providing the town some time to work towards an alternative solution.
Several RDA members shared the opinion that the grocery store problem will never change if the community doesn’t support it. Board member Lenora Smuts expressed concerns that bringing in a replacement for the current store such as Clarks Market (who met with the board at their January meeting) would not likely change anything. After some discussion it was agreed that the board would ask Better City, the company currently contracted with the town to promote local economic development, to reach out to Hill and open up a conversation about what he believes he needs to be successful in the community. “This town cannot survive without a grocery store,” said Mayor Nielsen.
County commissioner Jeff Rector let the board know that the commissioners are currently exploring ending the moratorium on oil and gas impact fees in 2018. Rector says he will be holding a small meeting with oil and gas producers regarding the issue where he will “sell and market” the reinstated taxes to them.
Colorado Northwestern Community College President Ron Granger updated the board on potential changes at CNCC. Following up with some of Better City’s suggestions, CNCC is seeking an increase in foreign students. According to Granger the Colorado Community College System is planning a recruiting trip to China where they could potentially bring in an additional 12-13 students. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has expressed interest in sending 10-12 students for the aviation maintenance program.
The dental hygiene program will benefit from a cash infusion in the coming year. Delta Dental, a dental insurance company, has given a donation of $100,000 of immediate funds as well as a $400,000 endowment for scholarships to hygiene students. Granger expressed excitement over the donation, as CNCC is expecting a $1 million loss in tax revenue this year.
With hopes of contributing more to the local economy, the college is planning to bring in more athletic tournaments next year, which could require two or three day stays in the town.
Rio Blanco County Economic Development Coordinator Katelin Cook is currently seeking grants that would allow the county to study ways to help local businesses utilize the new broadband capabilities.
The Rangely Development Agency typically meets on the second Thursday of the month at 7:30 a.m.