Cost versus need in public safety equation

We wouldn’t claim for a moment that the $25 million public safety project that was considered by city officials in 2005 would meet all the needs of the Grand Junction Police and Fire Departments.

We accept the statements of Police Chief Bill Gardner and City Manager Laurie Kadrich that it wouldn’t.

But we take substantial issue with their idea of how the city should plan for public buildings.

Kadrich and Gardner told The Daily Sentinel’s Mike Wiggins that the planners in 2005 took the wrong approach — designing a facility around a limited amount of money instead of figuring the needs for the departments and then computing how much it would cost to meet those needs.

The 2005 city officials say that wasn’t their approach, but that’s beside the point. It is the other planning technique that many people find so frustrating about government:

Determine what you need (or perhaps want) and then figure out how much taxes will have to be raised to cover the cost.

Nearly every family or business, when looking to upgrade a home or workplace, starts at the opposite end of the equation: How much can we afford? Then they calculate how much of what they need and desire can be accommodated within that budget.

If the city is to get new facilities for its downtown police and fire stations — and there is little question new facilities with more room are needed — it will have to convince voters it is designing buildings and computing costs with a very sharp pencil.

The cost figure will no doubt be somewhere between $25 million and the $98 million rejected by voters last fall. But it must be based on what the city and its taxpayers can afford, not on some open-ended budget built solely on what city authorities say is needed.


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