This “Chairman’s Column” is a little different than the others I have written. Normally, I like to write about some of the great programs our Chamber has to offer or the benefits of being a member. This one is more about a specific issue that we are working on and the process and people working towards a common goal.
For the last eight months, the Chamber staff and board members have spent hundreds of hours diligently trying to reach a compromise with the Grand Valley Drainage District (GVDD) and other governmental authorities on the fees that they had planned on imposing and have since billed. From the very beginning, we supported the development of a valley-wide solution to addressing the area’s drainage problems and a solution that would not unduly harm the business community and our fragile economy. This is an issue that affects over 40,000 homes, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and city and county governments.
The GVDD fees have created a tremendous amount of “heartburn” for our members. The staff at the Chamber have received more phone calls and visits over these fees than any other issue in the past 10 years and there has been a unifying message, “The Chamber needs to do something about this.” This message has been heard loud and clear!
Since learning that the GVDD was looking into a fee structure that would have a disproportionate impact on business, the Chamber has been committed to taking a leadership role in finding a more fair and equitable solution. We attempted to bring different entities together with the GVDD to look at other funding models and bring about a valley wide solution. When this did not work, and the notices of the fees were sent out, once again your Chamber was committed to finding a solution. To this end we reached out to our members and asked for their opinion, their ideas and their help.
In the course of our considering a response to the proposed fees, there were differing views among our members, partners, and board members on how we should proceed. I was heartened by the respect and collaboration among the board in developing the Chamber’s final action – such that even in our board meetings when members put forth different opinions on how to proceed, other board members thanked them for sharing their opinion. Once the final fees were formally announced and assessed, we all came together for the common goal of representing the businesses of our community.
Through this collaborative effort, we have concluded that the Chamber, along with Mesa County and other businesses should file a lawsuit against the Grand Valley Drainage District to seek an injunction to prevent the GVDD from unilaterally collecting the new drainage fee. The main basis for the legal objections to the GVDD fees is that the GVDD wrongfully labeled the assessment a “fee” versus a tax, thereby circumventing the rights of voters.
Although we feel strongly about our position in the lawsuit, we cannot be certain of the outcome and we will continue to provide updates as it progresses. We continue our commitment to serve as the “Voice of Business” and take a leadership role working to improve the business climate to the benefit of not just businesses, but also those they employ and the customers they serve.
Matthew Breman, Chairman
Click here to download full version of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce May 2016 Newsletter.