A timeout for public-safety plans

Grand Junction voters won’t be asked this April to reconsider a funding plan for proposed new public safety buildings, after they rejected a $98 million plan last November.

The city won’t put a public-safety measure on this April’s municipal election ballot, according to Mayor Gregg Palmer, because the economy remains in such poor shape that voters are unlikely to approve tax increases and because city officials have yet to agree on how to pare down the cost of the building plan.

Both are solid reasons for postponing another ballot measure. The City Council would have to act by this Friday if it wanted to put a public-safety measure on the April ballot.

We believe that new public safety facilities are desperately needed. The existing headquarters of the Grand Junction Police Department, in particular, are outdated, cramped, inefficient and create a potential safety hazard.

But gathering public support for a substantial new tax increase in the midst of the current economic crisis would be difficult, to say the least. That’s especially true when the city hasn’t yet reached agreement on what a new public-safety proposal might look like.

We supported, with some reservations, the proposal last November to raise the city sales tax to fund the $98 million for a new police headquarters, several fire stations and related facilities. Our reservations were mostly about the scope of the projects and whether all of the items in the proposal were needed. However, we opposed the second ballot measure, which would have allowed the city to be free from TABOR Amendment revenue limits forever.

To their credit, city officials have been re-examining the November questions. As Palmer noted this week, the TABOR portion of last year’s proposal will almost surely be dropped.

Good riddance to that. The TABOR proposal should never have been tied to the public safety buildings.

Additionally, people with the city have been exploring a number of options to cut the overall cost of the projects and to develop some potential alternatives to the plan as it was originally drafted.

We believe a public safety initiative with a price tag significantly reduced from $98 million, with a sales tax increase that sunsets when the projects are paid off and with no associated TABOR provisions will stand a much better chance of winning approval.

But the economy will continue to be a large factor in voters’ decisions. We can only hope that it will be less of a deterrent come November, should the city decide to put something on the ballot then, than it is now.


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