Theobold blasts city on safety initiative
Former Grand Junction mayor and current City Council candidate Reford Theobold criticized city officials Friday for demolishing a building he claims could have been used to meet the city’s public safety needs.
The City Council last May agreed to buy five parcels in the 300 block of South Seventh Street and the 700 block of Pitkin Avenue for $1 million. One of those parcels, 338 S. Seventh St., contained a 4,000-square-foot building owned by Tusca II and used by the general contractor for office space.
The city intended to build a new downtown fire station on those parcels as part of a $98 million public safety initiative, but voters in November rejected tax measures that would have funded the initiative.
Tusca II moved to a new office on Compass Drive, and the building on South Seventh was demolished late last year.
Theobold’s comments came during the first public debate between candidates running for council. The Redlands Rotary Club sponsored the debate Friday and plans to hold two more before the April 7 election.
“They destroyed it, and just because it’s not perfect for this, this and this doesn’t mean it couldn’t be used for something,” Theobold said after the meeting, which also was attended by his opponent, District D Councilwoman Bonnie Beckstein, and District E Councilwoman Teresa Coons.
Theobold, who served on the council from 1985 to 2003, said during the meeting that city officials need to examine the potential of existing buildings as they consider their options in the wake of the initiative’s defeat. He cited the Tusca II building as an opportunity that the city didn’t take advantage of.
He said Tusca II recently spent a lot of money to remodel the second floor of the building.
He said the city could have used it as it existed or gutted and rebuilt it for whatever purpose they needed.
“That’s a building that could have been used for overcrowding that’s occurring just a short distance away,” Theobold said, referring to the police station, Fire Station No. 1 and 911 dispatch center that are just across Seventh Street.
If city leaders didn’t want to use the building for the public safety initiative, they could have leased it and made some money, he said. Theobold also claimed the building was constructed in such a way it could have been torn down and moved to another location.
“I don’t want to paint with a broad brush, but I’m not sure I’m seeing that fiscal perspective I’d like to bring (to the council),” Theobold said.
Grand Junction Mayor Gregg Palmer defended the city’s decision to raze the building. He said the fire station would have been the first structure built among projects in the ballot measure, and that the city, anticipating the initiative would pass, wanted to have the site “shovel ready” to save time and money on construction.
The alternative of using the building wasn’t viable, Palmer claimed, calling it “another Band-Aid.”
While acknowledging city officials didn’t try to find out the remodeling cost, he said any money spent as a temporary fix would have been wasted once it was torn down, he said.
“In looking forward, we know that the public safety initiative is still our No. 1 priority, and we don’t want to be sidetracked by slapping more Band-Aids on things that we know will end up costing us more,” he said. “We want things that will ultimately cost us less.”