Failed bond measure leaves land empty

Failed ballot measures in November left School District 51 and the city of Grand Junction with lots of land and no money to put anything on it.

The school district owns nine vacant lots, totaling about 188 acres across the Grand Valley, that are potential school sites. The district failed to pass a bond issue in November that would have placed high schools on two of those properties — 35 acres at 23 and H roads and 34 acres at 30 1/2 and B roads.

Land for an elementary school in Fruita and another in Pear Park, Clifton or northern Grand Junction had not been designated at the time the bond measure failed.

The district paid $1.6 million in 2006 for the land at 23 and H roads and $1.2 million in 2007 for the property at 30 1/2 and B roads. The school district also paid $2.1 million in 2007 for 34 acres at 450 Wildwood Drive with the idea of possibly building a high school there, but the property was left out of the bond measure.

The school district budgeted for zero growth next year, but new schools are needed for an already overcrowded student population, and more schools could be needed if growth projections change, said Melissa Callahan DeVita, District 51’s executive director of support services.

“Eventually we’re going to need new schools. It’s just a matter of when,” she said.

For now, Callahan DeVita said, the district is in a holding pattern. The properties are not for sale, but there are no immediate plans to build on them.

Twelve addresses combined to sell for more than $2,816,103 (one property’s sale price was not disclosed by city or county documents) between June and November 2008 to make way for a new fire station along Seventh Street between Ute and Pitkin avenues and a public safety complex from Ute to Pitkin and Fifth to Sixth streets.

The buildings that once stood on those properties have been knocked down.

Grand Junction Fire Department Chief Ken Watkins said he is waiting for news this summer about possible stimulus money to help build the fire station. The federal government has $210 million to spend on fire departments, and Watkins hopes to nab enough money to remodel Fire Station 2 on Patterson Road and build a replacement for Fire Station 1 on the vacant land along Seventh Street.

He’s not sure what those projects will cost. Construction prices have changed since he estimated the new fire station’s price tag last year.

As for the rest of the public safety project, city spokeswoman Sam Rainguet said the property between Fifth and Sixth streets and Ute and Pitkin avenues is “still being held for a public safety facility,” and it is not for sale.

“The need has not gone away. We just have to find a funding mechanism,” she said.


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