Listen to this

Two things are apparent when you talk about Grand Junction’s public safety facilities.

First, there is a definite need for more and better space. Parts of the Police Department seem as crowded as North Avenue after a crucial high-school football game.

Evidence storage is inadequate. So are facilities for handling witnesses and criminal suspects. The emergency dispatch center is a technological dinosaur.

Second, and equally important, just refining the proposal that was shot down by voters last year may not win large numbers of new supporters. Eliminating some of the buildings from last year’s $98 million plan, and thereby cutting the cost, won’t satisfy those folks who thought the basic framework for the new police department in last year’s plan was too grandiose for the city’s needs.

The listening tour announced by City Manager Laurie Kadrich this week ought to elicit a great deal of public support, for several reasons.

Most importantly, instead of presenting fully formed plans for new buildings and asking for citizens’ support, the city is now engaging in a more bottom-up process.

Plans are to be developed based on citizens’ input about what they think is needed and what they believe the city can afford. The $98 million proposal from 2008 won’t be the starting point for those discussions. The city hopes to eventually construct a new proposal based on ideas from the public.

Additionally, the city will be examining ways to fund part of the project from existing revenue, rather than paying for it entirely through a tax increase, as was proposed last year. It’s unlikely that all of the city’s public safety needs can be met without some additional tax mechanism, which would have to be approved by voters. But we applaud Kadrich and other city officials for heeding the clear message from many individuals that the city should look for money for the project within existing revenue streams.

Undertaking the listening tour is a sound idea, but that doesn’t mean it will make decisions about the public safety facilities easy. This community is made up of people with very different opinions about government and taxes. The city is likely to hear a multitude of opinions on what is needed with regard to public safety, what the city can afford and how it should pay for it.

Even so, this is a more transparent process than the one used for last year’s public safety initiative. And Grand Junction residents are more likely to support a project if they believe they had a hand in formulating it.


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