Palisade budget for 2013 focuses on street repair

A new fire station — priced in the neighborhood of $1.75 million and set to be unveiled in early January — took up a major portion of the town of Palisade’s 2012 $7.9 million budget.

The budget adopted Tuesday by town trustees for 2013 is a lot slimmer at about $5.85 million, and is offset by more than $6 million in revenue.

The town brought in more tax revenue than expected in 2012,  and officials are optimistic that revenue will continue to increase in 2013.

The town’s general fund is projected to end up with a balance of just more than $1.3 million in 2012, well below the ending fund balance for at least the past few years. The budget for 2013 projects a general fund balance of just a little more than the 2012 level.

For residents, most municipal fees, such as sewer and water service, are not expected to increase in 2013.

Trash service, however, is expected to go up 50 cents next year, in part to expand the community recycling service. That fee increase will still need to be approved by the town’s board of trustees.

Streets and their maintenance and repair have come up as issues many times during the year’s budget discussions, and the 2013 budget almost doubles the $32,000 spent on street repair and maintenance in 2012. The town plans more than a mile of chip seal work in 2013, and a line item in the 2013 budget earmarks $120,000 for work on Elberta Avenue.

The deteriorating conditions of Main Street also were on the minds of trustees. While no project was specifically planned, town administrator Rich Sales called improving Main Street a “prime target” for the future.

“We’re not going to be able to do it this coming year, with this budget, but I think we can start planning ahead‚ just like we did with the new fire station,” Mayor Roger Granat said Tuesday.

So as an amendment to the 2013 budget, trustees decided to create a fund for future repair of streets, with an eye toward Main Street improvements. They diverted more than $237,000 from a reserve of Traffic Impact Fees, and reallocated more than $11,000 originally budgeted for a seasonal part-time person in the recreation department to start building a pot of money, presumably for a Main Street project.

“We’ve got to do something,” Trustee Cody Butters said about the conditions of Main Street.

Another road in need of repair — Iowa Avenue — wasn’t directly addressed by the 2013 budget. A number of property owners and managers had lobbied the town for repairs or a rebuilding of that stretch of road.

Sales said the estimated project cost to redo Iowa was about $100,000, as a simple chip seal wasn’t feasible because of its condition. He said it is possible some money set aside from the Traffic Impact Fees could go to a project there, but that “specifically, there is nothing in the budget for Iowa.”

In other expenses, town employees will see a 3 percent raise next year, continuing a trend from previous years. Personnel costs are expected to be 5.6 percent higher in 2013.

With the recent departure of longtime police chief Carroll Quarles, interim chief Mike Nordine and Sales have adjusted officers’ schedules, and the 2013 budget calls for a major reduction in overtime paid to police staff over 2012.

Next year’s budget earmarks nearly 3 percent more for the town’s next police chief.

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