Rio Arriba County elected officials and management continue to reach out to voters to discuss the three general obligation bond questions totaling $30 million that will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot, but some voters say they have hesitation in voting yes on funding County road projects.
District 2 Commissioner Leo Jaramillo hosted a meeting Monday at Northern New Mexico College to discuss the bonds and answer questions on how the money will be spent.
Jaramillo said people often ask why places like Los Alamos and Santa Fe have facilities and roads better than those in the County, but those same people are often unwilling to vote for a bond.
“There’s stories behind everything that happens with the perception of the County,” he said. “So I want you to think if you really want things to change and you want to offer the community something, now is your chance that you have the power to vote.”
Voters will have to decide on three questions, whether or not to bond $12 million to repair roads across the County, another $12 million to build a nursing and rehabilitation home on Industrial Park Road and $6 million to build athletic facilities.
While no one from the crowd said they had any hesitation to vote on the bonds for building athletic facilities and a youth center or a nursing and rehabilitation home, some said they were reluctant to vote yes on the bond for County roads.
Tom Montoya said he wholeheartedly agrees with building a youth recreation center so children have a place to go and stay out of trouble, as well as building a nursing and rehabilitation home.
“I’m really struggling with the question, the third one, and that’s the bond issue for road improvements and equipment,” he said.
Montoya said he is concerned about the County being unable to finish previous road projects.
He was referring to New Mexico Department of Transportation cooperative money. Public Works Administrator Napoleon Garcia recently asked the Rio Arriba County Board of Commissioners to pass resolutions to extend the deadlines to use the money for projects slated for 2017, 2018 and 2019.
County Manager Tomas Campos said the Roads Department was unable to get the projects done due to high employee turnover and lack of reliable road equipment and vehicles.
“That’s the reason we’re asking for the bond, that’s why we got extensions on those projects,” Campos said. “We’re not in danger of losing them, in fact we’re doing projects as we speak.”
He also said about $1.5 or $2 million of the $12 million bond will go to road equipment, while the other $10 million will go to repairs on 46 roads throughout the County.
The County will not work on the 46 roads, Campos said, it will hire contractors to do the work.
Montoya also said he was hesitant to vote on a bond to repair roads while the easement issues in La Mesilla still exists.
“Am I going to vote to increase my property taxes to improve roads to get to a residence that potentially down the road I can’t get to?” he asked.
At the same time, he said, he understands the roads need to be fixed.
Jaramillo said he understands the concern about the easement issue.
“Why am I then going to pay money for a road somebody else is claiming?” he said.
Leo Garcia, who lives in Lower San Pedro, said he came to the meeting wanting to vote for all three bonds and left feeling the same.
He said his decision is mainly based on providing more money to improve the community so children can thrive and want to stay living in the Española Valley.
“Give these kids, our kids, the opportunity to expand and be successful instead of being hungry and wondering, ‘Where do I go from here?’” he said.
By the end of the meeting, Montoya said he remained unsure about the County roads bond question, but will vote yes on the other two, as well as the mill levy question to fund trade programs at Northern New Mexico College.
After the meeting, Jaramillo said he was surprised people did not spend more time talking about the positive things the bonds will bring to the community.
Throughout the night he steered the conversation back to what each of the funding questions could provide for the community.
Jaramillo said the youth center, which will be located at the Arriba Empowerment Center, formerly the Cariños de Los Niños Charter School building, will be a place where children who may not have anything to do in the community can go.
The Center is also home to multiple nonprofit organizations, such as the United Way of Northern New Mexico and Youth Development Inc., so families will be able to access the services each offers during their visits.
Jaramillo said he gets phone calls from people in all three districts who say they cannot get to their homes for days due to damaged roads and floods and rain.
“Knowing they have a road to get home safely is a plus to me,” he said.
He also wants to ensure people will have a home in the Española Valley when they get older and need to go to a nursing or rehabilitation home.
“We definitely knew that (election) would just let the voters control if they wanted the bonds or not,” Jaramillo said.