Avalon, city fees, monument are discussed by GJ council hopefuls
A comprehensive plan for Grand Junction, employee salaries, a council reserve fund and fees for new development dominated a conversation by eight of 10 people vying for four seats on the Grand Junction City Council.
The early Wednesday morning debate was the first council candidate forum in advance of the city’s mail-in ballot election April 2. It was hosted by the Associated Members for Growth and Development.
Council candidates Rick Brainard and Harry Butler were absent from the event.
Candidates vying for the same district seats were asked identical questions.
District D candidate Martin Chazen said he was opposed to spending money in the city’s reserve fund.
“I have a problem spending the thrift of others,” Martin Chazen said. “We should only spend it if it’s an emergency. We’re spending the money down on things like the Avalon. It may be nice but it’s not an emergency.”
Councilors recently upped a contribution from $1 million to $3 million for renovations for the city-owned Avalon Theatre.
Incumbent Laura Luke, who is running against Chazen, countered that councilors had actually dedicated more dollars than necessary to the fund. The city must keep at least $13.5 million in the fund, but councilors determined the fund should not dip below $18.5 million. It currently is at $19.3 million, she said.
“It got coined the rainy day fund, but it’s designed specifically to be something that is moving,” she said.
District D candidate Bonnie Beckstein said the fund should be treated as a reserve fund to be used in emergencies.
District E candidates Duncan McArthur and Robert Noble posed differing opinions in response to a question about whether Colorado National Monument should be recast as a national park. McArthur said he objected to the idea because it might trigger more environmental controls from the government, which could reduce the amount of natural gas drilling in the area. That could affect the number of good-paying jobs, he said.
Noble said he believed the issue needed more consideration, and that the current City Council acted hastily to offer a resolution supporting the creation of a national park. Councilors were expected on Wednesday night to ratify a resolution in support of a name change.
District A candidate Phyllis Norris and incumbent Councilor Tom Kenyon responded differently to a question over transportation capacity payments, or fees imposed to new homes and businesses to pay for the required transportation infrastructure.
Norris said in this sputtering economy it is not the time to increase those fees because it could lure away business, and “we need to help business come in.”
Kenyon said the city has waived those TCP fees for some developments in the past, but then those costs are shifted to the taxpayers.
“Do you not charge the developer and charge the public?” he asked.
Meanwhile, Mayor Bill Pitts, who’s attempting to retain his at-large seat, said he has always been concerned with the way salaries for city employees are determined. City staff typically compares salaries against other government entities, not the private sector.
“That’s always been a struggle with me,” he said.