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County Asks for More Time on Roads Projects

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Crews on County Road 162

Rio Arriba County Roads Department crews paved County Road 162, in Abiquíu, with nearly 2,000 tons of asphalt. The road is about one mile long and 18 feet wide. Funding for the project came from the New Mexico Department of Transportation Local Government Road Fund, which covers 75 percent of the cost, while the County picks up the other 25 percent. Public Works Director Napoleon Garcia (not pictured) purchased the asphalt from Russell Sand and Gravel Co. Inc., despite it costing $15 more, per ton, than it does at Española Transit Mix.

The Rio Arriba County Board of Commissioners approved nine resolutions Aug. 27 to extend the amount of time Public Works Administrator Napoleon Garcia has to spend New Mexico Department of Transportation Local Government Road Fund money to build and repair roads across the County.

The extensions are for projects that were scheduled to be completed in 2017, 2018 and 2019, but Garcia said Roads Department crews were unable to finish them because of a lack of staff, broken equipment and other projects that needed “immediate attention for public safety.”

“Right now the employees that we have on hand are focused totally on maintenance and that’s why I’m here today asking for extensions because we haven’t been able to exhaust these funds,” Garcia said.

Each of the nine resolutions also states that the “continuous rainfall this summer did not allow work in the field as scheduled and caused major flooding and washouts that required immediate attention for public safety.”

This is the same language used in resolutions in 2017 and 2018 when Garcia asked other Road Fund extensions.

Department of Transportation Road Fund money is split into three categories and specifically funds special repair projects on County roads and those used by emergency service vehicles and on bus routes.

Garcia said the County keeps a running list of roads they want to repair each year, and roads are added and subtracted from the list as projects are completed. Roads on the 2017, 2018 and 2019 lists included those in Guachupangue, Alcalde, Ojo Sarco, Abiquiú, La Mesilla, La Puente, Mesa de Poleo, San Pedro and Youngsville, Public Work Documents state.

Although he voted in favor of approving the extensions, Commissioner James J. Martinez said he wants to see the roads in the County completed in a timely manner and asked if it would be possible to hire contractors to complete the projects.

While County Manager Tomas Campos said they are allowed to do this, Garcia said the County Roads Department crews will still have to be involved.

The County is responsible for completing 25 percent of these projects, which means Roads Department crews still do a portion of the work, Garcia said. If the County were to hire contractors, they would only be able to do, and get paid for, 75 percent of the total project.

Although they are only responsible for at least 25 percent, it is hard to pull the employees away from the regular patching, chip sealing and mowing they have to complete, he said. They are trying to hire more employees.

“We have two openings active right now that we’ve had for two months within the Roads Department and we have had no applications, so that’s kind of difficult as well,” Garcia said.

Commissioner Danny Garcia, who is also Napoleon Garcia’s uncle, said even with this money, there are no new road projects being done in his district, only maintenance, and his constituents feel abandoned by the County.

“There’s not enough money to go around,” he said.

The majority of the County’s roads are in his district, Danny Garcia said, and it is time for them to sit with Campos to come up with a solution to the road repair and maintenance issue.

“Seven hundred miles is a lot of miles for us to maintain without crews, without being able to hire,” he said.

Commissioner Leo Jaramillo said he understands Danny Garcia’s concerns, especially since the majority of roads are in his district, but residents in his area also feel neglected when it comes to needed road repairs.

All nine resolutions state the extension will last until Dec. 31, 2020.

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