Rick Wagner Column October 23, 2008

City should scrap these plans for public-safety facilities

I voted on Monday and I offer this bit of advice to other voters: Wear comfortable shoes. It takes a lot of standing and reading at the voting machine to get through this election ballot. 

First on the minds of many local voters is Grand Junction’s request for a sales-tax increase to fund $98 million in building projects and to ask voters to release the city from the constitutionally mandated TABOR revenue limits.

There are systemic and fiscal problems with the initiatives and other troubling issues.

I have in the past lamented that the city government will not establish an à la carte menu for public safety, but instead insists on rolling all of its wants and needs into one enormous package — without breaking out the much-needed city police building from the pack.

Among the more than seven new public buildings that this is proposed to fund is an inclusion for a new municipal courtroom. The current courtroom presently is housed in the pretty darn new City Hall and is a part-time operation. There is also an annex building and another parking garage. The direct connection between public safety and some of these projects is tenuous.

I cannot support a project so stubbornly and clearly an attempt to browbeat the citizenry into a tax increase predicated on the sudden surprise that the community is growing and exacerbated by misuse of the city’s agreement with the county regarding annexation within the Persigo Wash Sewer District.

This misapplication by the city of what was originally to be a major path toward logical growth of city limits into urbanized areas of the county has been contorted into the establishment of outposts of city annexation for the purpose of revenue.

Little concern seems to have been given about providing public safety to the newly taxed inhabitants of isolated and far-flung city limits.

As an example, some neighborhoods to the east of existing Grand Junction city boundries have remained unannexed for years, undoubtedly due to their lower tax base and higher service requirements. In the meantime, more remote areas of Mesa County, miles from the main locus of the city, such as a new and large subdivision between A 1/2 and B roads, are hungrily devoured.

On a more troubling note, the rapid establishment of, and enormous coffer filling of the Citizens for a Safer Grand Junction, a group purporting to be made up of concerned citizens supporting the public safety initiative, has very interesting funding.

The Daily Sentinel’s Mike Wiggins has written that more than $100,000 has been donated to this group since Sept. 1.

Being able to raise that kind of money so quickly makes one wonder why the city needs to have a tax increase at all, as it is by far the largest amount of money raised by any local candidate or issue committee during that time. 

The largest single donation reported was by Shaw Construction, of $10,000. (Shaw was one of several local construction firms that donated to the effort.)  Wiggins pointed out that Shaw has just recently completed a $7.8 million parking garage on behalf of the city. What was not noted was that Shaw was also the general contractor on the new City Hall building in 2000, as well as the multimillion dollar Two Rivers Convention Center expansion in 2003.

The company’s director for preconstruction services was quoted in Wiggins’ story as saying “We think there is a great need for a new public safety facility in Grand Junction.”

There is something even more noteworthy. On Aug. 6, the Grand Junction City Council authorized a contract with Shaw in the amount of $147,729 for “preconstruction design services associated with the public safety initiative.”

According to city records, Shaw was the unanimous choice of the selection committee out of four companies that submitted proposals. The money for the contract came from a state grant.

If 2A and 2B fail, I will fight to have the next City Council build a new police and main fire station. Our fine police officers and firefighters need the facilities to do their jobs. I also believe a better process will produce a better result. 

Rick Wagner offers more thoughts on politics at his blog, The War on Wrong, which can be reached through the blogs entry at GJSentinel.com.


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