Committee votes in favor of annexation

A citizen committee that has spent more than a year examining the future governance of Clifton and Fruitvale is leaning toward recommending that the areas be annexed into the city of Grand Junction.

The Clifton-Fruitvale Governance Committee voted 4-3 this week to pursue annexation rather than incorporation as a way to relieve Mesa County’s struggles to provide services to the densely populated east-central end of the Grand Valley.

“The annexation option is the most responsive to the issues that residents felt was the most important,” said Kimberly Bullen, the county’s management analyst who has worked closely with the committee.

The committee’s direction was largely driven by a telephone poll of more than 400 people in which 68 percent said keeping property taxes low was their No. 1 or 2 priority, and 61 percent said maintaining a high level of basic government services was their No. 1 or 2 priority.

Those responses would appear to favor annexation, because county officials have projected property taxes would increase about 2 1/2 times more under incorporation, while annexation would lead to a greater increase in service.

Committee member Ron Rowley, who favors incorporation, said most, if not all, of the committee members preferred incorporation when the committee first began researching the options. But he said a majority of the committee swung toward annexation because of the reduced cost.

Rowley and fellow committee member Pat Martinez said the committee also questioned whether there was enough energy among the 14,000 residents in the Clifton and Fruitvale areas to pursue incorporation. Rowley said he, Bullen and committee member Bud Thompson visited Centennial earlier this year to get an idea of what it took for that city to incorporate in 2001.

“They had a tremendous amount of grass-roots passion for doing it,” Rowley said of Centennial’s incorporation. “That’s what it takes for getting it to work.”

Martinez, who voted to support annexation, said even though Clifton residents approved a property-tax increase this month to fund the Clifton Fire Protection District, the balance of the election results show residents are shunning higher taxes.

“Incorporation would have involved higher (property tax) numbers that folks don’t seem amenable to at this time,” Martinez said.

Rowley said he expects the committee will meet again in January and begin looking for volunteers who would put together a petition to place an annexation ballot question before Clifton and Fruitvale residents.

Bullen said in order for a measure to appear on a ballot, a minimum of 75 people who own property in Clifton or Fruitvale would have to sign a petition.

County officials, though, say no formal decisions have been made, and they emphasize more groundwork needs to be done in advance of a possible election.

County Administrator Jon Peacock said the committee, city and county need to examine how Clifton and Fruitvale would transition into being a part of Grand Junction and how services would be adjusted.

Officials would have to look at how existing service providers such as the Clifton Fire Protection District would be affected by annexation. The city likely would conduct a study to determine the impacts of annexation.

“We’re still a long ways off from anything being final,” Peacock said. “But they’ve made the decision at this point that this is the path they’re going to explore.”


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