Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull didn’t have much of a wish list from Santa, he said on Christmas Eve, just to “have the family together as much as possible” over the holidays.
That’s not as easy as it used to be, with twin granddaughters who turned 2 that day, living in Florida.
But, as far as 2018 goes, Hull got what he wanted from voters: re-election on March 6, along with voter approval of two key bond issues: the $10 million road bond and a $4.1 public safety bond, both of which residents have seen results.
After about eight appearances “on the road” to present his State of the City address, Hull’s at it again Thursday morning at the monthly NAIOP meeting at Rust Medical Center.
Audience sizes have varied, Hull said, with only a handful at some of the council district venues, but the aim — getting information out to people to understand things better — has always been the goal. He’s also delivered his address, actually answering questions following a well-produced video — to the Kiwanis Club and Visionaries.
“You’ve got information that will help people understand things better,” Hull said. “I want people to see where their money went.”
In the video, he said, “We hit most of the good points, because a lot of it’s repetitive and continuing,” he said. “Last year, or a year-and-a-half ago, we finished the injection well; that had been out there sitting in the dirt and waiting many years to be completed. The Army Corps of Engineers money allowed us to get that collected and finish that project.
“(And) I know it’s not glamorous, but the U-Store It (on NM 528, north of Corrales Road), Quanz and we had a lot of re-development plans; we got the medical center that just re-developed Hastings and I think we’re going to have something in the Kmart building,” he said.
Also, watch for a presentation on social media of the 50 new police units and newest fire department equipment.
“We’re gonna say ‘Thank you’ to the voters,” he said.
Looking back to the middle of his first term, Hull said, “In 2016, we had to fight to get the road bond re-started; it was less than half of what it was before it got killed. … My goal there was, ‘Let’s see what we can do to identify two major roads and get them done so fast that people are really pleased with it.”
Those two roads were Sara and High Resort.
“Because we delivered those roads back … both projects were completely done within, I want to say, 13 months of voter approval, so voters immediately saw where their money went. As a consequence, approval of the (2016) bond went from 63 percent to 78 percent,” he said, happy to have seen more than 10,000 voters turn out last February and approval the road and law enforcement bonds.
“Now that we’ve got those started, we want those continuing so we can continue to invest well in the equipment that our police and firefighters have — all that stuff needs to be updated even more,” Hull said. “One of my goals in the legislature (in 2019) is to work with the legislature in how the city can put in place specific revenue sources to specifically address our public-safety needs as a community. Right now, our taxing authority is limited by statute. … One of my goals is to work with the legislature on how they can give the cities statutory ability to address their own public-safety concerns as a community and not as a state-wide issue or as tax control, because people want to invest in public safety — they want strong, safe cities.
“Making sure that we have competitive pay for our public-safety officers, whether it’s for fire or communications — they get left out, that person that dispatches, a lot of times — is critical,” he continued. “In total, with the bond and everything, what we’ve put into the police department the last four and a half years has been over $5 million, so it’s not like we’re not investing … that’s over 10 percent of our total budget.
“So these are the things people don’t know about online that we would talk about in these town halls, and those are the things we try to hit so we can explain to people, the sky is not falling, we’re still the no. 1 safest city in the state.
“It’s so critical that people come out to these town halls,” he said, making sure he holds one in all six council districts.
Looking ahead to 2019 and beyond: Campus Park, street repairs
“There was a special election held by the city to try to repeal the higher-ed GRT tax; voters said ‘no’ again, so voters approved that higher-ed GRT tax twice, so we’ve worked with the colleges,” he said. “I’ve reached out to other four-year campuses to see if they’d be willing to develop and grow out there.
“The money can only be used for infrastructure and building in brick-and-mortar that supports a four-year campus,” he explained. “So this is an opportunity to work with UNM, and UNM is working with us to develop not only a civic center but a campus park … it’s an extension of the UNM college to create that college atmosphere that was originally envisioned so our (Rio Rancho) kids could go there and get a four-year degree.
“But when you drive up there, you’ve got this building in the middle of the desert — this isn’t a college, this is just another vocational building where I can get some classes and go home,” he said. “It doesn’t give the kids the college experience, so one day we hope to see lots of buildings, dorm rooms and a great campus/civic center that the kids can go and sit.”
It’s important for people to understand the Campus Park doesn’t take any money from police pay, or anything else.
“It’s coming from a pool of money that doesn’t take from police, it doesn’t take from fire, it works in collaboration with UNM, and with UNM’s new mission of being a medically focused campus now, brining the hospital and campus together and creating connectivity of all of that I think is going to bring synergy to City Center — something that brings us all together.”
Residents should also look for improved roads, with Southern — from NM 528 to just west of Golf Course Road — expected to be completed by late September.
“When the voters approved the road bond in 2018, I gave staff a goal that all those road projects needed to be finished within 18 months of that bond approval,” he said.
Montreal Loop has been completed; contracts for Rockaway Blvd., Abrazo Road and Country Club Road have been approved.
“The only two that may be slightly delayed, which I would find acceptable, would be Country Club, because it would interfere with the Southern Blvd. project, and Sundt Road, because it would ‘pinch’ Vista Hills. If you have a construction project (already in the area, such as Rockaway improvements),” he said.
“Rockaway is the most important of all of them, to me, out of the road bond money… because it’s like High Resort — it’s got these water mains underneath that continue to blow like it’s the Fourth of July,” he explained. “Since (High Resort) has been finished, we haven’t a single water main break since it’s been done. … I want the people to see where their money went, what they invested in, and the value of having a strong road bond in place.
“My main goals will be to finish the projects we started, like Los Diamantes; get City Center underway; and address public safety compensation,” Hull concluded. Across-the-board increases for other city employees, “people so vitally important,” from water department workers to road department workers, are also among his goals.
Also important is filling the city manager position, which became open when Keith Riesberg departed to take a similar post in Winter Park, Colo. The application period ends Jan. 5.
“Having a city manager in place as quickly as possible is going to be an absolute goal.”
And Hull said he plans to meet with the area’s Congressional delegation to see if any matching funds are available for the myriad projects in the City Center area, including a multi-generational center for senior citizens, aka a second senior center for the city.
Bottom line: Hull says he was to “continue to grow the community and add to the quality of life, but address the immediate needs — they have not changed: Fix the roads, keep the city safe, and continue to strive to be the best city in the Southwest.
“We’ve started a lot of stuff, now let’s get that stuff finished so we can put it out there and make it useful to the community.”