Friday, May 22, 2009

Spiders on Caffeine..

or, Pear Park Pig-Palooza Points to Patchwork Problem.
(Apologies to Rocky and Bullwinkle)

Yesterday was an interesting last day of school if you are a student or parent at Pear Park Elementary, which is about 3 miles southeast of Downtown Grand Junction, in an area that has been busy with development under the Persigo Agreement of 1998.

As the Daily Sentinel reports today, the activities of a farmer who lives adjacent to the school created quite a ruckus among school administrators and students. Seems that the farmer hired someone to slaughter and butcher some pigs, and this happened in plain view of Kindergarten students waiting to go home. The butcher's use of a firearm to do his job brought multiple law enforcement officers and put the school in lockdown for a short time.

Quoting the Sentinel, "Mesa County Sheriff’s Department deputies and Grand Junction police flooded the area at the same time a host of activities were happening outdoors and inside the school, including an end-of-semester awards assembly."

It's both understandable and desirable that the report of a gun being fired near a school would bring officers from several jurisdictions into the area, but there's a deeper reason for this.

The school is in the City of Grand Junction, while the house next door, where the shots were fired into the pigs, is not.

The map at the top of this post shows Pear Park Elementary and the surrounding area. Those parcels in color are in the city limits. Check out D 1/2 Road, which runs across the top of the map. How would you like to try to figure out who has jurisdiction of an accident on that section of the road?

A closer inspection of the map shows the
locations of both the school and the farm, and also illustrates the jurisdictional challenges and haphazard nature of city growth that has occurred in the area of the school.

The Persigo Agreement basically says that if you want to develop a piece of land in unincorporated Mesa County, it must be annexed into the City of Grand Junction if it falls within the boundaries of the 201 Sewer District, which is served by the Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant on the west side of town.

But even further than the obvious challenges of the imaginary lines we draw around ourselves is the cultural and social diversity (some would say 'divide') that the current occupants of this area, and the lifestyles they represent, brought forth in their approach to the incident and the conduct of their daily activities. Some snippets from Paul Shockley's entertaining piece illustrate this well:
“They said a farmer was doing something to the animals but didn’t really specify … just a bit a weird,” said Amanda Ransier, who showed up to watch her son, Joseph, 7, pick up awards."

"The farmer in question, Keith Scott of 430 30 1/4 Road, said the actual shooter was a man he’d hired to process the pigs for meat. He said the shooting happens “three or four” times each year. “Just an unfortunate coincidence, I guess,” Scott said of the timing of the kill."

"Administrators at Pear Park Elementary were not entertained. “A lot of the kids are sad,” (Principal Cheri) Taylor said."
It sounds to me like the classic dichotomy between agriculture and sprawl, played out in one neighborhood on a May afternoon. The farmer seemed nonplussed by it all. It's as if he was saying, "I was here first, and this is what I do to make my livelihood and feed my family. Deal with it."

And he would have a point.

While law enforcement tries to figure out if a crime was committed, I would hope that our City Council looks at this and tries to learn from it. I would also hope that some of their questions that come up run along these lines:
  • How many officers from how many agencies got tied up on this?
  • Do we really need two separate agencies to patrol this mess, or is some sharing and consolidation in order, to optimize service delivery and organizational efficiency for our taxpayers?
  • Is this really any way to grow a community?

I found another example of what all of this screwy nonsense reminds me of. I remembered how
well-organized and structurally sound a typical spider's web is, and what happened to that web when scientists exposed spiders to common legal and illegal stimulants or depressants.

Those scientists found out that the most disorganized effort was made when the spider was exposed to caffeine.

Perhaps the manner of growth as arranged by the Persigo Agreement is the web that is being spun, and the attachment of annexation to development, without regard for how it affects the efficient application of services or the character of a community, is the caffeine.

City Council, it's way past time to take a serious look at this process, because it is killing parts of our community.

Have a good weekend.

1 comment:

John Linko said...

Gene Kinsey of Living the Grand Life linked to this post and brought up some interesting points of his own in his post, It's Not the City's Fault.

Below is my response to Gene's assertions, which are well worth the time.

I'm fully aware of the County's role in the Persigo agreement.

There is no real incentive for the Commissioners to push for revisions to the agreement. They are responsible for the provision of basic governmnetal services, including law enforcement, roads, etc., and as the City continues to annex under the agreement there are fewer miles of roads to maintain, less population and property for the Sheriff to patrol.
Why would the county want to change anything about this?

My approach in singling out City Council to start the process of changing the annexation process is twofold:

First, as a City resident I have significant concerns about the manner in which annexation is occurring, and the potential dilution of service provision as developed areas become more spread out from the City's core and the available resources are spread thin like the last bit of margarine over the last piece of toast.

Second, I question the nature of service provision, particularly law enforcement, that brings two separate agencies, with separate leadership, bureaucracy, support divisions, into covering the same general area with multiple officers for an incident like the one I referred to.

As a city and county taxpayer, I insist upon the efficient expenditure of my tax dollars. I believe that something as critical and expensive as law enforcement needs to have the most efficient delivery possible. This is why I have asked and advocated for the exploration of a Regional police force to patrol these patchwork areas seamlessly, the same way that the GJFD handles calls in many of these areas.

While the county indeed plays an equal role in these processes, I feel it is incumbent upon City Council, as the 'owner' of many of these issues through their continued annexation, to approach the Commissioners with some of these common sense ideas to optimize the consistent and efficient provision of government services.

My solution would include a re-negotiated Persigo agreement that provides for delays in annexation to allow for service delivery infrastructure and human resources to be adequately ramped up to serve additions to the city limits. As we are seeing, development-triggered annexations are still occurring, even in a time of economic downturn with reduced tax revenue.

I have mentioned these in previous posts as well, and will continue to mention it until some substantive, public move occurs on one side or another. I'm not holding my breath waiting for the county, so I'm focusing my efforts at the municipal level.