Keep safety plan lean, uncomplicated
The Grand Junction City Council is considering taking another shot at securing voter approval for new public safety facilities. That’s understandable, because few people would argue that the current crowded and aging facilities that serve as headquarters for the police and fire departments are adequate.
But public support of the need for new public facilities was also high last year, yet the ballot measures put to voters last November were soundly defeated.
A number of autopsies have already been performed on the corpses of those ballot measures, and there is general agreement on the key causes of their demise.
There was the declining economy, of course. It made voters hesitant to approve any new government spending or tax increases. The proposal last year would have raised the city sales tax by a quarter cent to pay for the $98 million project.
Additionally, many people believed the project was too ambitious and costly, and that it included a number of amenities that were desired by police and fire officials, but were not essential.
Finally, the convoluted language of the two ballot measures, one of which would have permanently eliminated TABOR Amendment revenue restrictions for the city, prompted a significant number of voters to just say, “No.”
We’re pleased to see that the City Council and city staff have listened to what voters have been saying since the election.
The plan they discussed this week would eliminate a much-disputed parking garage, along with an annex building, from the proposal. Those two items alone could shave $40 million from the price tag.
Additionally, the current plan would drop the open-ended TABOR override from last year.
Instead, there may be a question that asks voters to let the city keep future sales tax revenue above the TABOR limits — but only to pay for the public-safety facilities and only until the payoff is complete.
The city is also considering dropping one or more of the ancillary fire stations that were part of last year’s proposal.
All of that is welcome news. But city officials must also re-examine the building plans for the police and fire headquarters to ensure they are no-frills projects. Critics are sure to attack any proposal if they perceive unnecessary items are included in the plan.
We continue to believe new facilities are extremely important to keep the police and fire departments, and the emergency dispatch system, operating efficiently and safely.
We’re not sure whether the time will be ripe this fall to seek voter approval once again. Much will depend on the state of the economy at that time.
But, whenever the City Council decides to take the issue to voters again, it will stand a much better chance of success if the proposal is kept lean and uncomplicated.