Sales Tax Increase to Pay for Public Safety?

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Public safety officials say we're reaching a critical point in handling 911 calls and law enforcement.

They say the solution is a $98 million project which could be paid for by a 1/4 cent or 1/2 cent sales tax increase.

When you pick up the phone to call 911 you expect a quick, efficient and professional response, but Grand Junction Fire Chief Ken Watkins told the Grand Junction City Council today that it's getting harder and harder to keep up with calls.

When you walk into the Grand Junction Police Department lobby you expect service and privacy, but Police Chief Bill Gardner says it may not be serving people the best way it should because there is no seperation of criminals and potential victims.

In November we told you about a decaying police evidence storage building and in today's meeting Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger told City Council evidence collection can not have holes in it, it's crucial and it can make or break a case.

Public safety officials admit the system is far from perfect but that's why they've been planning for new facilities for two years. Now they're asking for funding for the project to the tune of $98 million for seven buildings--a public safety facility, an annex building to store evidence, a new downtown fire station, parking garage. The buildings would be adjacent to each other and would span 2 1/2 blocks from Fifth Street to one-half of a block east of Seventh Street between Pitkin and Ute Avenues.

The plan would also include three new neighborhood fire stations around Grand Junction.

The City of Grand Junction has not asked for a sales tax increase since 1987. City officials say there are other ways to pay for the project besides sales tax but they say other projects would suffer.

However the city decides to pay for it, public safety officials say now is the time for the project.

City Council is still gathering information on funding for the project. 11 News will continue to follow any developments in this story and we will of course let you know if the sales tax increase gets to the ballot.

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