Rio Arriba County commissioners went to voters in 2019 and asked them to approve a $6 million bond issue for a recreation center. Voters overwhelmingly approved the bond, foolishly thinking that would buy them a rec center.
In true Rio Arriba County fashion the commissioners at the time did not know what a proper recreation center would cost to build, where to build it, how to staff it nor the overhead costs. Here we are over two years later and surprise, we don’t have enough money to build even an anemic center. Worse yet, we have to spend that bond money by 2023. That’s a tight timeline.
This is a badly needed project in a County that offers little, if any, recreation services to the public, short of our $1.2 million playground in Chimayó.
It’s dangerous to walk our public streets for fitness. Most of our drivers belong in a demolition derby or trading paint on a dirt oval track. Drunk and high drivers are an issue. Most streets don’t have sidewalks so pedestrians are forced to walk among needles, trash and weeds.
One advantage to the herds of loose dogs in the Valley is that it turns a walk into a run and it’s good for cardio.
Out of desperation some walkers try to use tracks at our public schools. Those are normally locked after hours and the general public isn’t allowed on campuses during school hours, because we’re all so dangerous. So much for the “public” part of schools.
So a public recreation center is a good idea. However, we lack the expertise to begin with a plan to fit needs, a budget, timeline and overall project management to get it done. Rio Arriba County’s answer to any problem is:
Step one: ask for money.
Step two: think about what you want to do.
Step three: talk to an expert or two.
Step four: discover (surprise) what you want to do will cost much more than you thought.
Step five: beg legislators and the governor for money.
Step six: cut your project down by 66 percent, put some paint on it and tell everyone it’s a great project.
Step seven: close it a year later because there is no budget for staff and overhead.
The city of Española last summer followed the proper process in seeking funds for two capital projects from the $1 trillion federal hand-out for infrastructure. City Manager Xavier Martinez, Grants Manager Diahann Jacquez, Streets Supervisor Elijah Mares and Water Supervisor Steven Trujillo prioritized a long project list. They picked two, then sought bids for architects and construction management. The city had the capital budget to pay for that.
Those bids were awarded in November with the plan of the federal package being passed, which it was. They knew priority would go to those projects ready to go, just waiting for funding.
Surveys were completed, project costs were determined by professionals, impact statements had T’s crossed and I’s dotted. By early spring Española will be in a very good position to pick up a couple million dollars for two badly needed water and sewer projects on North Riverside Drive and Prince Drive.
This is possible through planning.
We firmly believe County Manager Lucia Sanchez is up to this challenge, if the Commission can get out of the way, since none of them are qualified to have any part in such projects.
We humbly suggest the County try this once. If it doesn’t work, they can go back to thinking big, getting disappointed, then begging legislators for money and finishing small.