Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Public Safety Lightning Round

It's good to see the City of Grand Junction move forward in selecting an option for new public safety buildings, and secure the financing to build them.

I was out of town for last Monday's City Council workshop on the options available for new public safety facilities, the open house to solicit public comment, and the workshop for Council the following day where the final option was chosen. The City issued a press release later that day announcing the release and purchase of Certificates of Participation (COP's) to fund the chosen option.

Wow, that was fast.

Let's review - The open house started at 5:30 PM on Monday the 15th, followed by the workshop at 7:00 PM. Per City Communications Director Sam Rainguet, the online survey was up on the City website from "shortly after 8 AM" the morning of the 15th until about 10:00 PM that evening. The workshop where Council was to receive the survey feedback, and make a choice from the options presented, occurred at 11:30 AM on Tuesday the 16th. The COP's were sold at public auction to a company with a phone number in the 212 area code (New York), which means the sale likely had to be completed prior to close of business there - 3:00 PM here.

The entire process took less than 24 hours to complete.

I did manage to review some of the options presented on the City's website and submit some comments to the online survey. I checked online for the summary of comments the next day, and couldn't find a link to the survey results. I left a message for Sam Rainguet, and yesterday she provided me with the few comments that were made over that short time frame. These comments can be reviewed here.

The comments I made were regarding some of the rankings of the options as they related to fire response time estimates, and the proposed (now approved) location of the 9-1-1 center in the heart of Downtown. As I've stated previously, the location of 9-1-1 in the same area as the State Office Building represents too much critical infrastructure in close proximity to one another, not to mention the potential hazards inherent to a location near major traffic and rail corridors.

Comments posted by others related to another recurring theme - consolidation of public safety agencies and their resources, and moving toward metropolitan government. I've written about this previously, along with others that have much more experience in government. I asked Sam Rainguet for comment from the City on whether these concepts have ever enjoyed discussion among City leadership, and what the consensus among those leaders was to such a process. I received the following reply:
"I spoke with Chief (John) Camper and he provided me with the following:

This type of model has been proposed here before and has been adopted in a few major metropolitan areas in the country, such as Miami/Dade, Las Vegas Metro, etc. Closer to home, Broomfield combined into a City/County, but that involved more than just police was the entire city and county government.
I haven't personally researched it, but I don't know that combining police and sheriff's departments has necessarily been a tax savings for those communities. Such mergers do provide some efficiencies in terms of cutting back on duplication, but frankly we already do a pretty good job of that in this valley. The Grand Junction Regional Communication Center is the best example of that collaboration, but other examples include the Drug Task Force, the Auto Theft Task Force, and the Bomb Squad. We have had ongoing discussions about the potential of combining Records now that we will be operating off of the same Records Management System, and we have had periodic discussions about the possibility of combining School Resource Officer programs and Victim Advocate Programs. The point is, where there are obvious opportunities to combine resources and save money, we have already done that and continue to evaluate it.
One of the advantages that Miami/Dade and Las Vegas Metro had is that their agencies are truly policing a 'metropolitan' area. That is not really the case here. There are significant differences in how you police a rural vs. an urban area, and a Sheriff's Department has responsibilities over and above what a police department has, to include Search and Rescue, Jail Services, etc."
I greatly appreciate Sam Rainguet and Chief Camper taking the time to reply.

As much as the City tried to make the entire process of securing these improvements as inclusive as possible, the last stages of it were conducted in an uncomfortably rapid manner.

Don't get me wrong - I'm very pleased that these much-needed facilities are finally going to be built, and understanding of the limitations that the City is under to get these facilities underway in a more fiscally responsible manner than they initially did in 2008. Best wishes to the City for a construction process unencumbered by further complications.

Have a good day.

(UPDATED 11/24/10 9:45 PM - Reply from the City)
(UPDATED 11/29/10 6:00 PM - Clarification of Online Survey uptime)

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