ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Bernalillo County commissioners agreed to make an unusual investment Tuesday – approving up to $400,000 for a regional rail and logistics park in Los Lunas, outside the county’s boundaries.
Commission Chairman Art De La Cruz, who sponsored the measure, said it made sense to contribute to an economic-development project that will bring jobs to the metropolitan area. The proposed rail park is only about 15 miles south of Albuquerque, he said, and couldn’t be built in the city.
“Most of the folks that are going to work there are going to come from Albuquerque and Bernalillo County,” he said, and $400,000 “is such a small amount when you talk about what this is going to be bringing in terms of employment.”
The company behind the project, Rio Real Estate Investment Opportunities LLC, estimates it would create 5,000 jobs.
The commission voted 4-1 in favor of the agreement with the village of Los Lunas. The county’s $400,000 contribution might be reduced if other government agencies agree to contribute.
That was a major point of debate. The state isn’t contributing to the project, and some commissioners asked why no one else was helping what’s supposed to be a regional project.
Commissioner Debbie O’Malley, the lone vote against the agreement, said the county budget is already stretched thin.
“Just quite frankly, to be giving public funds to another county … I really can’t justify that,” she said.
Los Lunas lies in Valencia County.
The debate took an intense turn when Commissioner Lonnie Talbert said it was time to act on the opportunity to support job growth, not just talk about it.
“I’m tired of 6.9 percent unemployment,” he said. “I’m tired of the constant talk about needing to get jobs.”
That drew a retort from Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins, who had asked a series of questions about the rail project but ultimately supported it. She said it was her job to question whether taxpayers are getting a good deal.
“I’m getting tired, too,” she said. “I’m very tired of people on this dais implying they care more about job creation or people who are unemployed than other people up here.”
⋄ Adopted a policy that guarantees county job applicants an interview if they’re the spouse of someone who’s a military veteran or on active duty. The applicant must meet the minimum qualifications for the county job they’re applying for.
Applicants with military service are already guaranteed an interview with the county; Tuesday’s action adds their spouses. It was sponsored by Hart Stebbins.
⋄ Approved creation of a tax increment financing district aimed at pumping money into the Isleta and Bridge corridors in the South Valley to help revitalize the area.