2013 Mesa County budget earmarks funds to improve infrastructure — and economy

Spending on roads, public safety facilities and a new work force center is included in a 2013 budget for Mesa County that’s expected to improve infrastructure as well as the local economy.

“Next year our capital budget includes projects that improve road safety, upgrade law enforcement facilities, help job seekers and businesses and maintain critical infrastructure,” said Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis.

The commissioners voted to approve an overall budget of slightly more than $157 million for 2013.

Broken down into five core areas, the budget earmarks $44.5 million for infrastructure and community planning, $41.3 million for public safety,

$21.4 million for healthy and self-sufficient individuals and families, $15 million for county services and $12.5 million for the local economy.

The budget allocates $41 million for capital projects, including $8.6 million for road and public safety infrastructure, $6.7 million for additions to the Riverfront Trail, $3.4 million for public transit and $1.7 million for a new workforce center.

Funding for capital projects comes from revenue generated by a 2 percent sales tax approved by voters. Increased sales tax revenue in 2012 provided additional funding for projects.

“Moving forward with these projects now makes good financial sense because construction costs are currently low,” Meis said. “Now is a good time to invest these dollars back into our community.”

Construction is expected to soon begin on a new workforce center at 519 29 1/2 Road on property adjacent to the county community services building in Grand Junction.

The workforce center, a collaborative effort of the State of Colorado and Hilltop Community Resources, offers a range of services in helping job hunters find work, businesses find employees and training the work force. The new workforce center will replace an aging and overcrowded facility located at 2897 North Ave.

“Our highest direct economic priority is developing a skilled work force,” said Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland. “In this economy, we’re stepping up to ensure people are well-trained and qualified for work. We also want to help businesses find the qualified workers they need.”

Even as it earmarks spending on capital projects, the 2103 budget also reflects a cautious approach based on mixed economic indicators.

“Our direction has been to budget conservatively, and we’re working to maintain responsible reserves,” said Mesa County Commissioner Steve Aquafresca. “This ensures that the organization can continue to provide essential services no matter what the future brings.”

Mesa County Administrator Chantal Unfug said the the county has become smaller, more flexible and more efficient as a government organization.

“We’re streamlining our operations by making services available online,” Unfug said. “This makes access for our users easier, faster and more convenient — and allows us to work faster and smarter while still providing excellent services to our community.”