A closer look at proposed bond projects

Special election to be held Aug. 16

Sample ballot for the Aug. 16, 2016 Special Election in Torrance County.

A special election will be held Aug. 16 in Torrance County—putting five general obligation bonds totaling $3.8 million in front of voters.

The county held a series of meetings on the bonds, which would raise money through a 1 mill property tax, meaning $1 in tax for every $1,000 dollars in assessed property value. That means for a property valued at $30,000, the taxable portion of that would be $10,000 and the property tax itself would be $10. That’s according to the county’s bond counsel, Daniel Alsup.

A property valued at $100,000 would see a property tax of $33 per year. The bonds are a way for the county to borrow money, Alsup said.

The county commission decided earlier this year to hold a special election rather than add the measure to the November ballot because of the timing of the existing bonds, which are set to expire this month. If the new bonds are passed by voters, their property taxes will remain at their current level.

If the bonds are rejected by voters, their property taxes would go down by the amounts above.

County manager Joy Ansley gave a detailed explanation of what each bond issue would pay for. The bonds can be voted up or down individually.

Sample ballot for the Aug. 16, 2016 Special Election in Torrance County.

Sample ballot for the Aug. 16, 2016 Special Election in Torrance County.

The first would raise $1.4 million for emergency community equipment. That number leaves a gap in the estimate the county has gotten for the cost of the improvements, Ansley said last week, adding that the county commission thinks it will be able to find the difference.

The money would be used to convert law enforcement, emergency and fire responders to an “analog simulcast system,” Ansley said. It could mean construction of additional towers.

“Our hope is that it will pick up service in a lot of dead spots in the county,” Ansley said, adding that those dead areas are a “huge issue.” Another problem is that currently when more than one radio is calling in “they are walking on each other and nobody can hear anything.”

Ansley said dispatchers have a hard time hearing calls, too. If the bond money is approved by voters, it would mean a complete system overhaul, she said. To move to a digital system would cost “many millions of dollars,” and would mean construction of perhaps 30 towers, Ansley said, adding that the county currently has five towers.

The second bond issue would raise $700,000 to build a multipurpose facility at the county fairgrounds in Estancia. Commissioners Jim Frost and LeRoy Candelaria have spoken favorably about the idea at their meetings, citing their desire to nurture the agricultural traditions of the Estancia Valley, and to give young people something to do.

Ansley said the Torrance County Fair Board wants to build a facility like one in Rio Arriba County, that would include an enclosed area with concrete floors that would be used for indoor exhibits, and an open area with a dirt floor. The fair board came up with the estimated cost of building the structure, she said.

A third bond question would raise $1 million for roads. Ansley said the county can get new semi trucks to carry road materials for an estimated $75,000 to $80,000 each, and the county wants to get four. That would spend about a third of that $1 million.

The other $650,000 or so would be spent to improve county roads. “The semis we have all have over a million miles on them, and there is always at least one broken down,” Ansley said.

The decisions on which roads would be improved lies with the county commission, Ansley said, noting that the remaining amount could “reclaim and relift on the worst of the chip seals” at a cost of about $70,000 a mile. “That’s all to be determined by the commission if the bonds pass,” Ansley said.

The fourth bond question would raise $150,000 to build a shop and fence for a new road yard on Alan Ayers, getting it out of the middle of Estancia, Ansley said.

“That will get that heavy traffic and exhaust out of Estancia, and free up that space, too, for the sheriff to have a secured yard,” she said.

The last bond issue would raise $550,000 for improvements to county buildings. Some changes that have been requested is an additional exit for the county clerk’s office, and security glass in the county treasurer’s office between the staff and the public, Ansley said.

Other projects could include anything from fixing roofs on a senior center to paving at fire department buildings. “Those would all qualify,” Ansley said, noting again that the county commission will have the final say on how those dollars are spent if the bond is approved by voters.

Early voting is now underway, and some polling locations have been consolidated. A sample ballot is online at the county’s website by following the link to the county clerk’s page.

Polling locations can be found there as well. Or contact County Clerk Linda Jaramillo at 505-544-4350 or by emailing ljaramillo@tcnm.us.