Cost, added bureaucracy make five commissioners a bad option
Yes, I supported the idea of expanding the Mesa County Board of Commissioners to five commissioners when I participated in study a few years ago.
The group involved at that time traveled to Weld County, which had increased the size of its board to five commissioners. The biggest warning from Weld County people was to elect all commissioners at large (all voters voting for all commissioners) to avoid districts being divisive.
After almost a year of studying the idea of having five commissioners, we began going out in the community to discuss our findings. The response was negative: First, no one wanted more bureaucracy caused by more elected officials. Second, they asked why we should spend more tax money for overhead? Also, there was no way to draw lines for representative districts without coming into the urban area of Grand Junction, thus the geographic representation would not change.
I have followed Mohave County in Arizona, which went from three to five county supervisors (commissioners). After a few years, the county went back to three supervisors, citing the cost of five as too much for the budget. Mohave County is much larger than Mesa County, both in land area and population. It has three large population areas.
The cost of adding two commissioners may not increase taxes, but it does mean more tax dollars are going to overhead. The Legislature recently increased each commissioner’s salary for counties the size of Mesa to $72,000, plus benefits. That equals about $92,000. Add the costs of increased office space, staff, equipment and travel, and the cost can easily be $75,000 to $100,000 per commissioner, in addition to the $92,000 in salary and benefits.
With a potential annual cost of $350,000 to $400,000 for two more commissioners, the questions is:
Could these tax dollars be better spent for law enforcement or other Mesa County needs?
I believe three commissioners serve us well. In spite of some claims, there are seldom two commissioners “always voting together.” If you look at the records, the vote mix changes with almost every issue.
With three commissioners, citizens have accountability and know where each commissioner stands. The commissioners make themselves available to citizens regularly in community meetings and coffees and return phone calls.
Voters are asked to vote “Yes” or “No” on increasing the Board of County Commissioners from three to five members.
Whether voting “Yes” or “No” on this question, we are also asked to mark our preferred method of selecting commissioners:
The first method is to elect three commissioners from specific districts, with only residents of those districts voting for those commissioners, plus two commissioners to be elected at large. The second option is to have five commissioners from five districts, with all voters voting for all commissioners. On the “how” part, I believe all voters should vote for all commissioners who serve Mesa County.
Lois Dunn is a local businesswoman who served on the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce study group that several years ago examined the option of expanding the Mesa County Board of Commissioners to five members.