Jim Hoffman
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Free Press Opinion Columnist

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February 16, 2012
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HOFFMAN: Oops, they did it again!

The City of Grand Junction and Mesa County attempted another step into free enterprise and step into it they did. Disastrous results and embarrassment are again the outcome.

You may recall their foray into food services at local golf courses. True, we own the golf courses and should exercise some control over our assets, but, City Council and County Commissioners actually wanted to expand the food services at Two Rivers Convention Center by taking over services at the two golf courses. The resulting uproar derailed that effort. The franchise agreement with the concessionaire at Tiara Rado Golf Course was a no-win situation which resulted in predictable failure. You would think they would have learned some lesson from that failure.

The city/county, through its surrogate the Grand Valley Transportation Authority, decided it would be a great idea to also sell Greyhound Bus tickets and food at a new GVT/Greyhound terminal they would build. To this end the county agreed to purchase land on 24 1/2 Road at a cost of nearly $1 million. In further steps toward this effort, a $2 million grant to build this facility was applied for and approved. This is yet another example of government deciding what is good for the public without first asking.

Next, they told the public about their plans. OOPS again. The public, especially property owners in the immediate vicinity, yelled "Not in My Backyard!" Todd Hollenbeck, manager of the Mesa County Regional Transportation Office, was taken aback by the "unanticipated" uproar. No one, it seems, wanted those seedy Greyhound bus passengers around their businesses and homes. An immediate retreat resulted and it was determined that excluding Greyhound from the new facility was what the public really wanted.

Who represented the city on the Grand Valley Regional Transportation Committee making that decision? Laura Luke is the answer. You may recall City Council member Luke as being the one quoted as justifying payment of a year's salary and benefits to an ousted city manager as a "good investment." Now, we find her serving on a committee and announcing a unanimous decision to abandon a plan at the cost of losing $2 million in grant money. One would be justified in questioning whether Ms. Luke and her colleagues on City Council and County Commissioners understand the value of OUR dollars. They wisely "invest" nearly $200,000 in a non-existent employee, and then give up a $2 million grant to build this transfer station. The exclusion of Greyhound from a bus transfer facility greatly erodes the benefit of the facility. Is this project, as it is now proposed, one for which the city is justified in spending our dollars to move forward? Is there another avenue that allows construction of a joint facility and retains the $2 million?

Certainly, the city/county is justified in building a new facility for Grand Valley Transit, and it probably makes good sense to leverage that investment by including Greyhound as a tenant. However, what business does government have in assuming the role of ticket sellers and food concessionaire at this facility? They have proven themselves inept in food services, and we certainly do not need more public employees performing jobs previously accomplished by the private sector. The worse epithets hurled at Washington, D.C., are usually "socialist," "nanny state", and the like. Yet, here, in conservative Mesa County, we find our city/county government deciding what is good for us, what we want, and opting to displace private industry with public workers. That certainly seems like nannyism and socialism to this writer.

There seems to be a blind insistence on moving forward when all signs say stop. Persistence may be a virtue, but occasionally a greater good may be served by pausing for a moment of meditation and reconsideration. True, we may now be stuck with a piece of land for which we have no immediate need, but must we use that land for a transfer station that would now only serve the original intent in a reduced fashion? If the proposed location is indeed the best location, then perhaps moving forward in the face of opposition is the best option.

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Jim Hoffman is a local real estate broker and investor who is trying to move from semi-retired to retired. He needs to retire to devote more time to unpaid interests such as skiing, camping and fishing.


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The Post Independent Updated Feb 16, 2012 10:27PM Published Feb 16, 2012 10:26PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.