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County setting project priorities; public can give input

RIO RANCHO, N.M. —  BERNALILLO — Sandoval County commissioners discussed which five physical projects the county needs to prioritize, with an animal shelter, body cameras for deputies and work on Paseo del Volcan among them.

At the virtual Sandoval County Commission meeting Thursday night, commissioners discussed which projects to prioritize in the Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan.

The ICIP consists of projects the county chooses and establishes planning priorities. These capital projects are then submitted to the state for review and discussion. The legislators will decide how much funding to grant to the county in the next legislative session.

The county will submit its plan to the state Sept. 18. The ICIP covers the fiscal years of 2022-26.

As per the Open Meetings Act, discussion about ICIP must be held at the county commission meeting.

Sandoval County Manager Wayne Johnson asked the commission to discuss what the county’s top five capital projects are. The commission will select its five priorities at the next county commission meeting on Sept. 17.

Commissioners were given a list of projects and how much funding has been spent on each, and how much is needed to complete them.

Among the list of over 40 projects is an animal shelter. The county recently moved a temporary animal shelter to the Sandoval County administrative campus in Bernalillo.

Johnson was tasked by the commission to plan a more long-term solution. The solution would be a permanent animal shelter estimated to cost $4.35 million.

“The animal shelter, I think, is pretty much one of those items here I think the commission has made a top priority or at least a top-five priority,” Johnson said.

Some items are mandatory, tying the hands of the county, he said. It is state law for all law enforcement officers to have body cameras.

The county will need to purchase more body cameras for deputies with an estimated cost of $724,000, since only some deputies have them now.

Other mandatory considerations include making voting sites Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant.

Voter sites are ADA-compliant with temporary solutions, said Director of the Division of Public Works Mark Hatzenbuhler. About $400,000 has been spent to date for ADA compliance. However, for county-owned sites, a permanent solution can be considered through the ICIP, Johnson said.

With senior centers not being used as voting sites due to COVID-19, other locations have been selected that are not as ADA compliant. County Clerk Eileen Garbagni said the guidelines to be ADA-compliant are strict, but the county Bureau of Elections is working with what’s available.

“I would say with this, that all the county is firmly committed that all voting locations are ADA-compliant, regardless of the strictness of the standards, and it is only this election that senior centers are not being used,” said county attorney Robin Hammer.

Proposed county locations that need improvements to be ADA compliant are mostly fire stations and few senior centers, she said.

Commissioner Michael Meek, District 3, said the priorities, need to be projects the county can finish.

“Getting the polling places ready — we discussed this last year, and we haven’t done anything. So for something like that, we should be doing it and completing it,” he said.

Commissioner Kenneth Eichwald, District 5, agreed.

“I have been here now going on four years, and we have had pretty much the same list the whole four years,” Eichwald said.

Other suggested priorities include funding for the public safety communications system and work on Paseo del Volcan.

“We are going to have to deal with the public safety communications system; that has been high on the list before,” Johnson said. “We have gotten some of that work done. It is nowhere near complete at this point. As you may or may not be aware, we had a failure of a microwave (radio) up to Cuba, which has been repaired but is not fully functional yet, as far as internet goes; so this is something that we are going to be chasing after for a while.”

About $6.6 million has been contributed to the public safety communications system, and about $307,000 is needed to complete the system.

“Paseo del Volcan is not a mandate, but I think it is important to the economic health and economic development in Sandoval County, particularly in the Rio Rancho area,” Johnson said.

About $1.6 million has been funded for Paseo del Volcan, and about $11 million is still needed.

The list of county projects being considered will be attached in the online version of this article at rrobserver.com for the public to review.

To submit a public comment to commissioners, visit sandovalcountynm.gov, scroll down to the public comment section and click the tab “Submit public comment.”

At the next Sandoval County Commission meeting on Sept. 17 at 6 p.m., the commission will select its top five projects from the list. The meeting will be lived streamed at sandovalcountynm.gov, under “Quick links” in a tab called meeting videos.



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