One-stop county shop

Old City Market warehouse has been remodeled to house County Services offices

The lobby area in the new Mesa County Central Services facility on First Street. The building is expected to save the county $260,000 a year in rent and utilities.

As the recession gripped Mesa County the past few years, sapping it of vital sales tax revenue, penny-pinching county commissioners examined every way to trim costs.

They reached first for the low-hanging fruit, freezing employee salaries, slicing retirement contributions and medical plan benefits, and eliminating positions in departments with lighter workloads and internal-service areas that yielded the least impact on the public. When those branches were stripped, the county pruned further, hitting agencies in charge of public safety and those that are the most visible to citizens.

Then county leaders set their sights on a target that dropped off the radar years ago.

By this time next month, hundreds of employees will have completed a move into the former City Market headquarters and warehouse in downtown Grand Junction. The 53,000-square-foot mass of concrete and metal at 200 S. Spruce St., remodeled and reborn as the county’s Central Services facility, is expected to save the county $260,000 a year in rent and utilities.

“Our commissioners in general have always been wanting county employees to look for ways to save money. As we look at this, we’ve realized moving into a building like this and consolidating multiple offices into one area could accomplish that result,” Regional Services Director Donna Ross said.

The consolidation achieves more than that. It revitalizes a downtown building that largely had been unused the past eight years. And it gives citizens who need to pull a building permit, renew their license plates, obtain a marriage license or file a junk complaint about a neighbor one place to do all of that.

Unlike other cost-cutting measures, the county had to spend money to save money in this case, a decision that was criticized by some fiscal conservatives in the community.

The Central Services facility was the centerpiece of a $17.5 million project-financing agreement the county entered into in 2010. The county sold a long-term leasehold on the county Justice Center to Wells Fargo Bank, which turned around and leased the building back to the county. Sales tax revenue will fund the lease.

The county spent a little more than $7 million to buy and rebuild the facility for Central Services. Officials expect to recoup that investment in 11 years.

They’ll do so by selling the county building at 750 Main St., which housed several county offices, and ending leases for the Clerk and Recorder’s Office at Mesa Mall and food bank and food programs on Morning Glory Lane.

County leaders say they expect to gain cost and time savings through Central Services’ design as well.

When project engineers and designers got together to gut and remake the facility, they wanted to be able to sail a paper airplane across a sizable area — not to provide a means of entertainment during slow work times but to encourage an effective and efficient workplace.

There are no private offices and few conference rooms. No cubicles stand higher than 7 feet. Large windows frame the east and south sides of the building, and several skylights dot the ceiling. Combined together, it allows light, air and conversation to disperse through the building more freely.

“One of the concepts here was to be really efficient in how we built the building,” Facilities and Parks Department Project Manager Dave Detwiler said.


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