This is the brain trust that wants to run your electric utility?
Back in the mid-1990s, Bernalillo County used federal money to buy property to extend Paseo del Norte from Eubank to Tramway. Twenty-one parcels were purchased to accommodate overpasses at cross streets, but the overpasses were later deemed unnecessary.
So what did the county do with the extra land? In what a cynic might term a shell game, it sold it for $3.6 million, then claimed $3.4 million of that was actually the required local matching funds for a federally funded road project on Isleta Boulevard between Rio Bravo and Arenal.
The state Department of Transportation got wise to the switcheroo back in 2012, dropped a dime to the Federal Highway Administration, which required the state to recoup the land sale and federal matching proceeds.
Now the county has agreed to reimburse NMDOT $7.1 million for the potential misuse of federal funds. The poorly thought-out scheme will hit the county’s road fund $4 million in April, followed by $1.5 million in 2024 and 2025, something drivers should recall next time they hit a pothole.
Deputy County Manager for Public Works Elias Archuleta wasn’t with the county when the land sales occurred, and says most employees from the mid-’90s are gone. So are their elected bosses. Taxpayers are left footing the bill.
Archuleta says the county has safeguards in place, including a real estate committee, to avoid future accounting blunders. We would hope so. But it should give the public pause this is the same governmental body that can’t get a handle on adequate staffing or frequent deaths at its jail, staffing at its detox center and now wants to launch a publicly owned utility and take control of local electric generation.
Instead, how about BernCo stay in its lane, deliver on its core responsibilities of public safety and infrastructure, and adhere to sound accounting practices that won’t cost taxpayers millions when current officials are long gone?
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.