Foster goes to GJ council for help on CMU project

Colorado Mesa University President Tim Foster returned to the Grand Junction City Council Wednesday evening, presenting information to support the school’s $7 million funding request for a second academic building.

“We’re going to do something for sure,” Mayor Bill Pitts said. “We’ve just got to figure out how and where.”

The meeting came out of a previous budget discussion where city councilors expressed concerns about the amount and wanted to see the economic benefit for the city. In response, Foster showed numbers forecasting about $2 million in city sales tax annually without university growth and about $2.3 million annually with university growth.

Following council feedback, city officials will revisit the budget, which currently anticipates $500,000 for property acquisition, and may have more information by the middle of October as to what the commitment may look like.

Starting in the 1990s, the City Council began giving the university $250,000 annually for the acquisition of properties as they became available, an amount that doubled earlier this decade and was expected to continue for 10 years. Now, in the middle of that time period, this investment would be on top of that contribution but could come in any payment plan, Foster said.

“If you take your foot off the accelerator the car will slow down and the car will stop. … Could we stop buying properties? Sure. But I think that we’d be sorry we did,” he said.

Between 2009 and 2011, the university averaged 14.5 percent growth in student enrollment per year, and Foster credited city and community support for about half of its expansion. He listed a number of additions, including the Maverick Pavilion, the vacation of Elm Avenue and construction of the plaza, Academic Classroom Building and Fine Arts Building.

“These are just a few that have happened because over time we have bought the properties needed to expand. ... It is now a campus,” Foster said.

To fund the $17 million project, which would be located near Elm and Cannell avenues, the school is committing $7 million, of which $3 million will come from a capital campaign. A request to Mesa County Commission for the remaining $3 million is pending, Foster said.

To put the amount requested in perspective, Foster said it would equate to a 16 percent tuition increase. Staying relatively affordable is something the school would like to continue to do, he said.

If the university receives a positive response from the council by the end of the year, building design would be complete within about five months and the facility would open in the fall of 2014.

“CMU is another strong spoke in the wheel of Grand Junction,” Councilor Jim Doody said, adding there is a limited amount of money and the city has to work in a number of different areas. “We’ve got to make it balance.”

In other council news, members passed a resolution opposing Amendment 64, a November ballot initiative that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana for people over the age of 21.

The move echoed that of many public officials, including the Mesa County Commission. At Wednesday’s meeting, the opposing resolution passed with five votes, with Councilor Teresa Coons abstaining and Councilor Jim Doody absent.

“I am fully aware it is against federal law to possess marijuana,” Coons said, adding she has concerns about the dollars spent on crimes related to the use and possession of small amounts of marijuana. “We need to do some more thinking about it as a community.”


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