Citizens: Scale back safety-building plan

Grand Junction resident Bill Burger makes a point to an attentive crowd of local residents and members of the Grand Junction City Council Friday afternoon during a listening tour hosted by the council.

Sam Rainguet of the City of Grand Junction takes notes from topics presented by local residents Friday during a listening tour hosted by the Grand Junction City Council held at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church.

The Grand Junction City Council got a go-ahead signal, sort of, on Friday to move forward with new police and fire buildings.

To get any project going, council members were told by constituents, they have to go a long way to rebuild trust from voters who two years ago soundly rejected proposed new police and fire department headquarters.

The council got a barrage of mixed messages from the 15 people who attended the council’s second of five stops on a listening tour aimed at gathering ideas for whether and how to deal with new structures.

Mayor Teresa Coons and Council members Bruce Hill and Bill Pitts attended the stop at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church at 3888 27 1/2 Road.

“We need to do something, now,” Corky Perry told the council.

The current police headquarters at 625 Ute Ave., built in 1958 and remodeled in 1984 and 1992, is plagued by sewer gnats, electrical problems, fire-code violations and crowding, according to a city flier detailing the problems with the buildings. The adjacent fire headquarters at 330 S. Sixth St. is too small for modern training needs, has plumbing problems that lead to raw sewage falling on employee work stations and has no separate quarters for male and female firefighters.

“We need new facilities to lift the spirits of everyone who works there,” said Bill Burger, who attended the listening session with his wife, Darlene.

To do that, Dennis Simpson said, the council will have to rebuild trust with voters.

“If anything, you ought to be thanking the people for not letting you do what you asked for” in the 2008 election, Simpson said.

It wasn’t long after the buildings were rejected that the national and eventually the local economies went into a tailspin, Simpson said.

The previous proposal was hindered because voters perceived it as a Taj Mahal, and the election came on the front of a perfect storm, resident Peggy Adams said.

“Let’s use common sense,” Adams said. “People are not wanting to go to excess.”

Resident Bill Johnson said the city should look into selling the Somerville Ranch on Grand Mesa that it purchased for its water rights. That was an idea Pitts said he hadn’t heard before, noting it among 10 others he had listed from the first listening session last week.

The council might consider a property-tax-based bond issue instead of a sales-tax-driven one, because fire and police services are geared more to protect private property, Simpson said.

Although the council has no set plan, it should consider how that looks to voters, Darlene Burger said.

“You want my money, but you have no plan,” she said. “I need to trust.”

The council also needs to show voters more clearly the difficult work environment for police officers and firefighters, Darlene Burger said.

“You’ve got to get the emotion into it” to connect with voters, she said.

The council is trying to get a better sense of what voters want, Hill said, and then it will come up with a proposal.

“We will be back with a plan” before seeking voter approval again, Hill said.


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