Nothing government gets built in a day or at a regular price

Craig Hall

I’ve  been doing some research on big building projects and came across this little ditty because I like the comparison for the purposes of this column: 

“The Taj Mahal is located on the right bank of the Yamuna River in a vast Mughal garden that encompasses nearly 17 hectares in the Agra District in Uttar  Pradesh. It was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahalm, with construction starting in 1632 and completed in 1648, with the mosque, the guest house and the main gateway on the south, the outer courtyard and its cloisters were added subsequently and completed in 1653. The existence of several historical and Quaranic inscriptions in Arabic script have facilitated setting the chronology of Taj Mahal. For its construction, masons, stone-cutters, inlayers, carvers, painters, calligraphers, dome builders and other artisans were requisitioned from the whole of the empire and also from Central Asia and Iran. Ustad-Ahmad Lahori was the main architect of the Taj Mahal.”

And it cost a boatload of bucks to build this level of excess. 

Now in the above, replace Taj Mahal with Grand Junction High School and every reference to the emperor with Mesa County School District 51, and you’ll get the gist of the new plan to build our local version of the Taj Mahal, the new Grand Junction High School. After all, I’ve been here 21 years and — voila! — that’s how long it took to finally complete the Taj and that’s how long it’s taken for our elected betters on the D51 board to come up with an even more exorbitant plan to erect another wonder of the world, this local one priced two to three times higher than the average cost to build a high school in Colorado. 

But to be fair, let’s use a quote from another piece of research I did, this one coming from District 51 itself on its promotional website at Citizens for D51: “We’ve listened to your concerns … And we’re proud to now fight for a new school that successfully addresses only the most urgent and essential needs.”

And those they consider to be “community-conscious citizens” have put a price tag on “urgent and essential needs” at about $150 million. But don’t any of us dare do any more research and discover the AVERAGE high school buildout cost is about $50 million to $60 million in the United States. And most of those include large tracts of land needed to be purchased AND full athletic facilities. 

But what do I know? I’ve never been elected to a position of power and knowledge like a school board, city council or county commission, where all knowledge is bestowed once the ballots are in. 

Well, I know this: D51 has been ignoring this community need for the 21 years I’ve been here after making the horrible decision to build a school with a lifespan of less than 50 years not so long ago — damned near within my lifetime. This willful negligence has our kids going to an asbestos-laden, roof leaking, bricks falling out of walls, basement flooded constantly, floor upheaving, death trap for decades. And now it’s demanding $150 million dollars to fix the problem it caused? And parents are falling for it? 

Since I arrived here, D51’s annual budget has almost doubled. Its student population hasn’t, but its staff has grown exponentially. We’ve approved hundreds of millions of dollars above and beyond the billions the district has received, including allowing the doubling of its debt just a few years back. Yet, D51 hasn’t put ONE PENNY towards what I’ve been told is its most pressing need: a new Grand Junction High School. Nope, the most it’s done is put Taj after Mahal on the ballot only to be defeated so it can blame the voters and call us child haters and anti-education — a move that’s done as much to sever relations in this community than any evil the satanic experts in the federal government have come up with. 

One thing that’s amazed me since understanding everything in this country is political: people wanting the same folks who caused the problem and are hurting you to somehow fix the problem and help you. If one looks through that lens, they’d have to conclude the last place to look for a solution is government. For the love of Gia, just take a ride down any road and tell me it’s fixed. You can’t. 

We desperately need a new Grand Junction High School. But until there’s some sanity on price — say $60 million due to the swamp thing — let’s put this latest proposal in the place the Taj was intended: a tomb.  

Craig Hall is owner and publisher of the Business Times. Reach him at 424-5133 or