East end areas should expect drop in service

For the past few years, Mesa County commissioners and administrators have advised they can’t continue to provide urban levels of service to the densely populated but unincorporated east end of the Grand Valley.

They claimed the amount of money being spent on law enforcement and infrastructure was disproportionate to the population, leaving other areas of the valley to pick up the bill.

Now that an effort to petition the city of Grand Junction to annex Clifton and portions of Fruitvale has come up short, county officials appear prepared to make good on that advisement and pull back at least some of the resources.

That may be exactly what some annexation opponents want: to be left alone to live in the county and pay lower property taxes. But others say they’re worried a decline in services could lead to dilapidated homes, yards and streets and a drop in property value.

“I have no doubt we’ll get some reduced services,” said Diane Wheeler, a nine-year resident of Clifton who served on a citizen committee that studied annexation. “With the economy being down, the county has to do cutbacks. To me, there really is going to be a downside to this.”

To ask the city to annex Clifton and Fruitvale, petitioners had to collect signatures from more than 50 percent of the property owners, and those signatures had to represent more than 50 percent of the total acreage and parcels.

The area to be annexed was divided into three sections, and petitioners initially focused efforts in the northern-most section, believing its residents were most in favor of becoming a part of the city. But county officials halted the process when it became clear petitioners wouldn’t be able to collect enough signatures by the April 16 deadline. In the end, signatures favoring annexation were obtained on only 31 percent of the eligible parcels. Signatures favoring annexation were obtained on less than 18 percent of the eligible acreage.

Commissioner Janet Rowland said the county is spending 40 to 55 percent of its revenue in areas that were proposed for annexation, even though the 18,000 or so residents who live there make up just 17 to 19 percent of the population of the unincorporated portions.

She said that level of spending won’t continue. As a result, she believes the potential exists for property conditions to deteriorate and residents to relocate into the city.

Commissioner Craig Meis said the lack of support for annexation indicates to him that residents prefer a lower level of government service.

“When we get calls for service, we’ll now have the rationale to say, ‘We cannot do that and, more importantly, you decided not to (annex),’ ” he said.

Meis, too, said he’s concerned land values may suffer. If that happens, he said that could prove to be the impetus for residents to annex or form a special-improvement district.

Kimberly Bullen, county senior management analyst, said she was surprised by the number of people who refused to sign the petition, indicating the vast majority of citizens she heard from wanted to be annexed.

She also noted more people couldn’t be contacted by petition circulators or didn’t respond to contact attempts than those who signed or refused to sign the petition.


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