City takes push for public safety buildings to residents

Grand Junction city officials this winter will launch a “listening tour” of the community and assured residents they will listen their to concerns and ideas about the cost, funding, scope and location of new police and fire buildings.

City Manager Laurie Kadrich said City Council members will convene with civic groups and hold neighborhood meetings and other public events early next year to gather comments from residents about a variety of issues related to public safety.

Nearly a year after voters rejected a quarter-cent sales-tax increase to pay for a $98 million public safety complex, the city continues to explore possible solutions to problems with cramped, outdated downtown police and fire stations. But the listening tour would represent a markedly different approach to devising those solutions than the strategy city leaders employed previously.

City officials had taken tours of public safety buildings elsewhere in Colorado and the United States and hired an architect to draw up blueprints of what they thought they needed before they presented plans to the public. This time they say they’ll base plans on public feedback.

“In this case we’re going to take a step backwards to take a look at the need. (This will be) more about answering questions, then beginning to develop a plan,” Kadrich said. “There really wasn’t much discussion with the community about this concept. It was more, ‘Here’s the end result of our work, and we need to have it built. Now it’ll be more about, ‘Here’s what our needs are, here’s some ways they might be addressed,’ and (we’ll) seek input about others.”

After insisting they couldn’t pay for a project with existing funds, city officials will look internally to see if they can begin to set aside money for at least one or some project components.

Kadrich said budget managers will look at establishing a place in the city’s capital-improvement plan for public safety buildings. They also will examine padding the city’s fund balance with operating- and personnel-expense savings and using some of that money for a future public safety project.

Mayor Bruce Hill said he likes the idea of the listening tour.

“I think the best thing to do sometimes, when you’re faced with complex issues, is to back up a little bit and take an opportunity to listen to the community,” he said.

City officials say the tour will concentrate on reinforcing the shortcomings that require new buildings while at the same time avoiding basing new conversations with the community on the old $98 million proposal.

Kadrich said she hopes to present the results of the tour to the City Council next spring.


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