We have always appreciated the effort that goes into making downtown Grand Junction an attractive place to be.
The heart of the city is often where visitors form a first impression about us as community. That's why we've often called downtown the city's welcoming handshake.
Much of downtown's appeal is that it's not a concrete-and-asphalt desert. There are old leafy shade trees and planters full of shrubs, ground cover, bulbs and flowers.
But the price of keeping up lush appearances is more than what taxpayers pay to irrigate and landscape the central business district. There's a hidden cost that few of us ever see and it's alienating some of the folks who are trying to capitalize on downtown's carefully curated allure.
On Sunday's front page, the Sentinel's Duffy Hayes documented the downtown area's recurring saturation problem, which persists despite major improvements to water and sewer infrastructure as part of the Downtown Uplift project in 2011 and 2012.
While major issues — like a water main break that flooded three 400-block businesses in October 2010 — have become infrequent since the upflift project, many downtown businesses still deal with water seeping into their building's basements outside of the infrastructure that was replaced.
They universally point to the city's irrigation system. Sometimes the problem is understood, like a pinhole-sized leak in a service line or a valve that got locked open due to debris in the line. But often as not, both building owners and the city seem unable to detect the source of water that penetrates basement walls.
The Mesa Theater "has a guy" tasked with the everyday removal of about 20 gallons of water, according to owner Brett Strong. Likewise, the Grand Junction Economic Partnership had to engineer its own solution for persistent seepage.
It seems unfair to us that there's an added cost to doing business downtown. It's already hard enough to stay in business without the additional burden of spending to mitigate a problem that should seemingly be preventable.
The city of Grand Junction is a good municipal government. It does so many things so well — including keeping the downtown area and the city's parks well-manicured — that this seepage problem seems like an outlier. But for the city to maintain its reputation as a responsive, caring good neighbor, it has to address a problem like this. Maybe the answer is as simple as cutting down on the amount of water it throws on landscaped areas. Maybe it's more extensive — requiring an engineering or hydrological study. So far, it has responded to complaints by encouraging private investment in sump pumps.
We're not saying the city is responsible for the problem, but that part of its social contract with its residents is to investigate and put forth some reasonable solutions. There has to be a better remedy than waiting for business owners to make claims against the city's insurance company.