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Spirit of cooperation alive and well

As a Sandoval County commissioner, I realize that I’m subject to constant public scrutiny. However, I also hope that those doing the scrutinizing care enough to be accurate in their portrayal of what I say and do.

Unfortunately, recent news stories did not accurately document my comments regarding the county’s relationship with the city of Rio Rancho, and I feel it’s necessary to set the record straight.

These stories were sparked by a discussion at the February 16 commission meeting, in which District 3 Commissioner Don Chapman asked the full board to consider meeting with the city of Rio Rancho’s Governing Body for the purpose of collaborating on common issues.

During this discussion, I pointed out there already is ongoing collaboration between staffs of various city and county departments, and that collaboration has resulted in several partnerships that benefit all county residents – including those in Rio Rancho. County staff has similar working relationships with other communities within the county.

I also said that, if the County Commission decided to hold joint meetings with other governing bodies, those meetings should include representatives of all the communities within the county. I never said – as the news media has reported – that the County Commission should not meet with the city of Rio Rancho’s Governing Body.

Apparently, that statement wasn’t clear to some people, since, two months later, I became the subject of news reports accusing me of having a “dismissive attitude” toward the city of Rio Rancho.

I have never been dismissive of the city of Rio Rancho. As I’ve stated, I’m well aware of the ongoing collaboration between city and county staff. I support that collaboration and the many joint benefits it produces.

The question of whether Rio Rancho residents receive a fair share of county services is subjective. If a person feels slighted in any circumstance – not just with respect to government services – I can’t tell them they don’t have a right to feel that way. However, I can point out a few of the ways in which Rio Rancho benefits from city-county cooperation.

On February 5 of this year, the County Commission voted to give the city $300,000 toward improvements on Westside Boulevard between Unser Boulevard and Golf Course Road. We did that because we recognize the importance of alleviating traffic in this area, which is experiencing rapid growth since the opening of Rust Presbyterian Medical Center.

By the way, Rust Medical Center and the University of New Mexico Sandoval County Regional Medical Center are in Rio Rancho because the County Commission took the initiative to ask voters across the county to approve a mill levy to help fund construction and operation of those hospitals. These facilities serve patients throughout the state of New Mexico and beyond. However, the majority of gross receipts taxes generated by the hospitals – and the new businesses that continue sprouting nearby – go to the city of Rio Rancho.

On April 16, the County Commission approved a new Joint Powers Agreement to continue operation of a dispatch center that coordinates emergency responses for police and fire departments in all communities within the county. This regional approach lowers the cost of providing emergency dispatch service for all of these entities.

That same spirit of cooperation has prevailed for a number of years at the recycling center that operates under a separate Joint Powers Agreement between the county and the city of Rio Rancho.

These cooperative efforts – and many others – happened without governing bodies convening for formal meetings. They happened because the staffs of each entity – the people who do the real work – got together and crafted agreements that each governing body separately approved.

I hope these types of cooperative efforts continue. I also hope this sets the record straight about my willingness to see all Sandoval County communities grow and prosper together.