GJ Council approves stadium improvements, new public safety center

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Construction on a new public safety center and improvements to Suplizio Field are slated to begin in Spring 2011, now that the Grand Junction City Council has approved the means to pay for them.

Monday night, council members voted unanimously in favor of a $7.8 million funding package for the stadium project as well as a $36.3 million funding package for the public safety center.

While those may sound like steep price tags during a time when city revenues are down, officials say both projects are high priorities for the city and the funds are in place to pay for them without increasing fees or taxes.

"These revenues come through fees people are already paying, so it won't change that situation at all," says Teresa Coons, mayor of Grand Junction.

Both projects will be paid for using what are called certificates of participation. In each scenario, the group the city enters into a financial agreement with -- the Grand Junction Finance Corporation for the stadium and Zions First National Bank for the safety center -- would essentially become the owner of the facility it's funding. The city would then lease the two facilities, with interest, from the groups until the certificates are completely paid off.

In the case of the stadium, the city will pay a lease of $515,000 per year for the next 25 years. Of that, $215,000 will come from the lottery funds the city receives each year, which can only be used for park projects. The remaining $300,000 will be picked up by Grand Junction Baseball Inc.

In the case of the public safety center, the city plans to pay a lease of $2.2 million each year for the next 30 years. Of that, $1.7 million will come from the city's capital fund. The remaining $500,000 would be paid for with an 911 surcharge that is collected when you pay your phone bill.

"I think it's important to recognize that the revenue sources that will help us pay back these certificates of participation are through funds we cannot use for any other purpose," says Coons. "We have an opportunity to take advantage of low interest rates, good funding mechanisms, and use revenues we certainly couldn't use in any other way."

What will that money buy? For Suplizio Field, it means ADA compliant seating, a new hospitality area, a state-of-the-art press box, new locker rooms and other things. But most importantly, it means a contract with the National Junior College Athletic Association to keep the Junior College World Series in Grand Junction for the next 25 years.

On the public safety center side, city officials say their top priorities are to build a new police station, new 911 Communication Center, and possibly a replacement station for Fire Station 1 downtown. What that will actually look like, however, is still unknown. City Manger Laurie Kadrich told council she wanted to present the designers with a concrete dollar amount to let them know what they had to work with before plans were drawn up. She hopes the plans will be completed later this fall.

"I think it's really exciting," says Coons. "I think the timing is good from the standpoint that we have funding mechanisms available to us that don't result in raising taxes, construction costs are low, and there's the added benefit of helping to stimulate our economy -- putting people back to work in Grand Junction, and everyone tells us it's all about jobs."

Construction on Suplizio Field will begin immediately following JUCO 2011 and is scheduled to be completed before JUCO 2012.

City officials hope to break ground on the public safety center April 1, 2011. Depending on what the final design of the project looks like, it could be upwards of two years before the various agencies could move into their new locations.

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