Grand Valley governments share staff during recession

If this had been any other year, the town of Palisade likely wouldn’t have hesitated to hire a full-time replacement when its only planner, Nathan Boddy, quit this summer.

But as Grand Valley governments are reminded every time they peek at their balance sheets, 2010 is unlike any other.

So, rather than advertise and solicit resumes for Boddy’s position and its accompanying $52,193 salary, Palisade looked to a fellow municipality to provide cushioning for its staff and its bottom line.

The town will contract with longtime Grand Junction city planner Dave Thornton to handle Palisade’s planning issues through at least the end of the year. Financial details haven’t been worked out, but Palisade will save money, Town Administrator Tim Sarmo said.

Palisade also expects to tap Grand Junction’s engineering staff, rather than hire a third-party consultant, to conduct field inspections and process paperwork in conjunction with its $8 million sewer-replacement project.

Local government administrators say the stubborn recession and lagging tax-revenue streams are prompting them to look at ways they can share resources, a practice they haven’t consistently utilized before. And they believe it may not be a temporary arrangement.

“This might be our new normal for a number of years,” said Tim Moore, Grand Junction public works and planning director.

Sarmo pointed out other examples of local governments combining staff and money. Palisade contracts with Grand Junction to operate the town’s swimming pool. And instead of searching for a full-time program administrator, Fruita, Palisade, Mesa County and the Grand Junction Drainage District agreed earlier this year to allow Grand Junction to oversee the operation of the 5-2-1 Drainage Authority, a group charged with controlling flooding in the valley.

“It could be that this turns into a longer-term relationship, the need for government to be more efficient and share resources when possible,” Sarmo said.

With development applications and new construction grinding to a virtual halt, Grand Junction can afford to loan a planner to Palisade. Moore said the city’s Public Works and Planning Department lost 30 percent of its planning and engineering staff either to layoffs or reassignments to other city jobs.

“We’ve got resources that are being partially used,” Moore said. “We have some capacity to do some other things.”


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