It’s time to fund public-safety facilities

In the midst of the most serious economic recession in decades, the Grand Junction City Council on Monday will consider approving measures to fund two costly building projects.

The council should approve both measures — one to allow the renovation of the sports complex at Lincoln Park and the second, more important one, to allow construction of new public safety facilities.

Neither project will raise taxes for city residents or those who do their shopping in Grand Junction. Both will use lease-purchase agreements and certificates of participation to obtain funding for the projects without requiring long-term debt, at least as understood currently under the Colorado Constitution.

Public safety redux

It was almost two years ago that city voters rejected ballot measures that would have raised the city sales tax to fund $90 million in new public safety facilities, including a new police and fire headquarters, new 9-11 dispatch center and several new fire stations.

That vote occurred just as it became evident the national economy was going sour, and voters were in no mood for higher taxes and big-spending projects.

Since then, two things have become abundantly clear: the economy hasn’t improved, while the need for new police quarters and a 9-11 center have only intensified.

The city has taken several stabs at redrawing the plans rejected by voters in 2008. The latest idea was developed after a series of meetings and surveys of city residents conducted over the spring and summer.

The direction the city received from city residents was: “Do something within existing revenue, something smaller and do it now,” said City Manager Laurie Kadrich.

The proposal the City Council will consider Monday meets all those criteria. It will cost roughly a third of the 2008 proposal — a maximum of $36 million.

It will use existing revenue. The revenue the city is currently spending on the 29 Road Overpass — money from a 3/4 cent sales tax dedicated to capital construction as part of a 1988 sales-tax measure — would be used to make the lease-purchase payments.

Those payments will total up to $2.2 million a year, but because the multi-agency board that oversees the 9-11 dispatch center has agreed to contribute $500,000 a year, the city’s share will be $1.7 million annually.

The proposal also will allow facilities to be built soon, even though there is no definite project plan. A new police station will be built if the measure is approved, possibly on vacant land the city owns near the existing station. The 9-11 center could be included in that new building, or perhaps in another existing city building.

An empty city shop on River Road might be revamped for a new fire station and fire administration center.

Much will depend on how much contractors say can be constructed with funds available.

Suplizio Field and Stocker Stadium

The plan for the sports fields at Lincoln Park similarly depends on certificates of participation. It will cost up to $7.8 million. The money will be used to replace the existing press boxes at Suplizio Field, add concourse and concession areas and create box seating at the baseball field.

The city’s share of up to $255,000 a year for the lease payments will come from lottery funds the city receives each year. Additionally, Grand Junction Baseball, Inc., the group that puts on the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series each year, has pledged $300,000 a year for lease payments. Grant money will also be sought to help provide up to an additional $1 million in funding.

It is a reasonable shared-cost plan to revamp a facility that is used not just by city residents, but high-school teams from around the Grand Valley, Mesa State College, and of course JUCO, which attracts visitors from across the country.

Moving ahead

Regardless of when economic recovery occurs, improvements are needed to ensure the police and fire departments can adequately protect area residents, that evidence is secure and that the privacy of crime victims is protected.

Approving the funding plans for the park and especially the public safety facilities will be a very clear statement that this city is not going to turn its back on the needs of the community, even during difficult economic times.


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