City finds way to pay for new safety building

Council approves bank deal to fund $32 million project

Just last week, mold in the wall of the Grand Junction Police Department at 625 Ute Ave. caught fire.

It’s in the same area of the basement where the sewer smells waft up from the floor and gnats inhabit the women’s locker room. During recent heavy rains, $3,000 in equipment was ruined by a leaky roof while investigators were in the thick of a homicide case.

Thanks to a unanimous decision by City Council members on Monday night, Grand Junction’s police officers, by the earliest in 2012, can say farewell to the 1950s-era building and look forward to working in a new space.

A new emergency 911 center will also be built and plans may include refurbishing an existing city building to include a new Grand Junction Fire Department Station No. 1.

Council members approved entering into a financial agreement with Zions First National Bank of Denver. The bank would secure investors to provide $32 million for construction costs. The city would then pay between $2.2 million and $3.4 million in annual lease payments over a 30-year period to pay back the note.

The financing method is referred to as issuing certificates of participation. Payments would come from a portion of the city’s 2.75-percent sales tax, $500,000 a year from 911 fees and a $1.7 million city payment that would be freed up for capital improvements after the 29 Road viaduct is complete.

City officials expect the certificates to garner a 4.8-percent interest rate and the project is listed as an A+ plus rating, or one that is considered to be the least risky for investors.

“One of the things I’ve heard from many people is it’s about time,” Council member Tom Kenyon said. “I heard criticism about moving forward on road projects ahead of public safety.”

Voters in 2008 rejected a $98 million measure to increase taxes and build a public safety center.

Since then, council members say they have heard the message from residents: that they wanted a less pricey option, they wanted the city to use existing buildings when possible and to build immediately.

Council member Bonnie Beckstein was absent Monday night.

A few people who head local economic groups spoke in support of the project at the hearing, saying it would help stimulate local construction work and offer a solution to replace aging city buildings.

One member of the public, Dennis Simpson, opposed the project, saying the certificates of participation are a legal way for the city to enter into debt without having to go the voters for approval.

He also questioned the timing of the agreement and wondered whether it was rushed because one of three statewide measures, if passed during November’s election, would essentially forbid City Council members from funding new construction.

City Manager Laurie Kadrich said in a previous, informal meeting that she anticipated that reaction, though it was baseless.

“We would have done it at this time, regardless,” Kadrich said. “Sure, there will be people to say they’re doing it to beat the ballot.”

Construction is expected to begin on the vacant lot west of the current police department by April. City officials have yet to plan if the 911 center will be added to another floor on top of City Hall or be attached to the new police station.

In other news:

City Council members approved entering into an agreement to secure no more than $7.8 million in certificates of participation to remodel and update Stocker Stadium. The city would be responsible for annual payments of $215,000, which would come from local lottery dollars. Grand Junction Baseball would pay $300,000 a year.

The certificates of participation are expected to be issued at a 4.9-percent interest rate with the project listed as an A rating. The agreement is for 25 years, which coincides with the contract for the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.


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