Confusion, angst at Fruitvale annexation meeting
Many oppose annexation into city; county leaders say need is urgent
A two-hour long meeting Wednesday to discuss the circulation of petitions to annex the western half of Fruitvale into the city of Grand Junction evolved into an explosion of questions and an outpouring of emotion.
Many residents were opposed to the idea of annexation. Others, including a member of the resident-committee that studied the possibility of annexing Fruitvale, were simply confused. And still others stormed out of the meeting in anger, either confused about the area proposed to be annexed or frustrated they could not get their questions answered.
“I am a little in the dark, even though I am on the committee,” said committee member Dave Combs.
Jon Peacock, Mesa County administrator, said before the meeting that the committee members would be doing all the talking and that he had no plans to speak.
Although five committee members did speak, Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland quietly asked Peacock to address the audience of nearly 100 people as committee members were being hit with questions about why Fruitvale needs to be annexed.
“The county is not in a position to offer urban level services,” Peacock said in response.
Rowland, who lives in Fruitvale and would be annexed if the signature petition succeeds, followed Peacock. She said the Clifton/Fruitvale area, roughly from 31 Road east to 33 Road, consumes 40 percent of the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department’s resources. At the same time, residents in the area only pay 19 percent of the cost.
“We are not paying our own way,” Rowland said.
By that time, many in the the audience were already hissing. Rowland said if the area does not annex, incorporate, or form a special tax district to pay for government services, “you’re going to see some cuts in services.”
Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey assured everyone that law enforcement, no matter the outcome of the annexation procedure, would be a constant.
“Nobody will fall through the cracks,” Hilkey said. “I’m with you through thick or thin. We will continue to serve you the best we can, however this works out.”
For the most part, audience members raised their hands and spoke when called upon. Some could not contain themselves.
“There is no such thing as a free lunch and that’s what you are saying we are getting,” said one man.
One woman said she didn’t want to be annexed.
“We want the status quo,” she said.
Not everyone was unhappy. Some embraced the possibility of becoming part of Grand Junction.
“We need more police in this area,” said a woman who lives in a Fruitvale mobile home.
Some were concerned Grand Junction was attempting to force the issue.
“The city is not driving this,” Rowland said.
About 25 people left the meeting when they learned the area being considered for annexation was east of their homes.
“We’ve been had,” said one of them as he left.
Shortly after their departure, Kimberly Bullen, a senior planner for Mesa County who has been working on the annexation proposal for the past 2 1/2 years, said that the miles of unincorporated Mesa County west of 31 Road to roughly 29 Road would become an enclave if the signature petition is accepted by the Grand Junction City Council.
An enclave may be annexed after five years, Bullen said.
Mesa County hired Denver-based CRL Associates for $40,000 to assist with circulating the petitions, which may only be signed by property owners.