Public safety facilities not on spring ballot

Any effort to pitch a reworked sales-tax increase to Grand Junction voters to pay for a series of new public safety buildings will not happen this spring.

The deadline to certify the contents of the April 7 municipal ballot is Friday , and city officials are still grappling with ways to pare down a $98 million project in the midst of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression.

City residents in November rejected both a quarter-cent sales-tax increase and a removal of the revenue cap imposed by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Those measures would have allowed the city to build a facility with a police station, fire administration offices, a 911 dispatch center, a municipal courtroom and an emergency operations center. There also would have been a new downtown fire station to replace Fire Station No. 1, a parking garage, an annex building to store evidence, vehicles and supplies, and three neighborhood fire stations.

Mayor Gregg Palmer said last fall’s economic storm that many people cited as the reason the public safety initiative failed won’t clear in the next few months. He also said he doesn’t believe voters would approve a sales-tax increase during the same month their income taxes
are due.

In addition to whatever blame might be assigned to the poor economy, some criticized the $98 million initiative as too costly and containing excessive components.

“We know that there are certain elements that can’t change,” Palmer said. “We’re trying to figure out what we absolutely have to have, what we can put off, what can change.”

City Council members have held no public discussion about the options they’re considering.

But the mayor said there could be “substantive changes” to the main complex that would be located downtown. He declined to discuss them in any detail because he said those potential changes are part of property purchase negotiations, which can take place in executive session under state law. The City Council met in executive session last month.

Whatever route city officials take with a revised public safety initiative, Palmer said he believes if there is another ballot question, it should not include another attempt to override TABOR.

“It’s clear to me that the community isn’t ready for that discussion,” he said.


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