City won’t abandon plans for complex
Grand Junction city leaders vowed Wednesday to press ahead with plans to build a series of new public safety buildings, saying the need for larger, technologically updated facilities will not fade.
“It was our No. 1 priority, and it still is our No. 1 priority, to address the public safety needs we have,” Mayor Gregg Palmer said.
Administrators said they will analyze election results and funding alternatives in the wake of city voters rejecting a $98 million initiative that would have created a downtown public safety campus and three neighborhood fire stations. Voters turned away a quarter-cent sales-tax increase by a 2,200-vote margin and a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights override by a 4,500-vote margin.
Deputy City Manager Rich Englehart will lead a team of five or six employees who plan to talk to voters about why they voted for or against the initiative and look at all methods by which the city could pay for the project.
City Manager Laurie Kadrich said the worst thing city officials could do is have a “knee-jerk reaction” to what they believe the reasons were behind the initiative’s failure, rather than take time and dig into the issues.
Late Tuesday night, after most city employees, campaign volunteers and supporters had left a gathering at Alpine Bank downtown, Kadrich outlined several alternatives the city could consider to generate funding for the project. They included pursuing a bond issue similar to how the Riverside Parkway project was funded, breaking the project into phases, applying for an energy-impact grant that would diffuse the cost to local taxpayers or reducing city services.
Kadrich said the city could funnel all of its capital dollars into the public safety initiative, but because that would delay all other capital projects indefinitely, she doesn’t count it as a feasible option.
Police Chief Bill Gardner said of all the elements of the public safety initiative, a new 911 dispatch center is likely the top priority. He said the center, which operates on the second floor of the police station, has a three- or four-year “life expectancy.” He said the building is operating at its maximum electrical and technological capacity, and the dispatch center has to update its computer system every three or four years. It’s one year into the latest system update.
After that period, he said, dispatchers have to move into a new building.
“That’s something we can’t dodge,” he said.
Although the ballot measures failed, Kadrich takes heart in the fact that roughly 46 percent of voters favored the sales-tax increase. And in the hours after the votes had been tallied, she said she fielded phone calls from citizens wanting to help out should there be another initiative.
“I still think there’s strong support in the community. It may just not have been the right time,” Kadrich said.