City Council: Listening tour was a necessity

The majority of the Grand Junction City Council defended the city’s public safety facilities listening tour Wednesday evening during a pre-council meeting.

The tour cost more than $5,000 to put on and more than $17,000 to design, as reported Sunday by the Daily Sentinel. The city spent another $41,000 on surveys, advice, and post-election analysis after a public safety ballot measure failed in November 2008.

Mayor Teresa Coons said the city would be scrutinized if it didn’t have a listening tour or ask for public comments in some form, calling it a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.

She and Councilwoman Bonnie Beckstein agreed having a third party marketing firm, Cobb & Associates, help sort through comments gathered during the listening tour process was better than having the city do so alone. If the city handled the entire process itself, they said, some residents would wonder if the city skewed the final report.

“Maybe not now but after the results were released they’d (citizens) wonder how we handled it internally,” Beckstein said.

Councilman Bruce Hill said most people coming to the listening tour meetings were learning instead of protesting any change to local public safety buildings.

“We’re getting good information,” he said.

Gathering and deciphering public opinion takes money, Councilman Bill Pitts said.

“You have to pay for information,” he said.

But the council should keep an eye on how much it pays when it comes to hiring consultants like Cobb & Associates,  Councilman Sam Susuras said. The city paid the firm nearly $60,000 over 17 months for public safety facility communications advice, post-election analysis and listening tour development services.

“Something I’d like to keep close tabs on is the consultant fees,” Susuras said.

At the meeting following the discussion Wednesday, council members voted unanimously to approve a $503,034 photo voltaic solar power system installation at the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Carbondale-based Sunsense Inc. will perform the installation. The company completed solar installations at Two Rivers Convention Center and the Visitor and Convention Bureau building.

Xcel Energy has notified the city it will get a $200,000 rebate for the project. The city expects to get another $295,708 from Xcel through renewable energy credits, plus another $167,597 in energy savings over the next 20 years.

“That essentially makes $160,000 for our water customers,” City Utility, Streets and Facilities Deputy Director Terry Franklin said.


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