County mulls bond for fairgrounds & other projects

Only a day after an hours-long public hearing at its regular meeting, Torrance County held a special meeting about whether or not it should issue general obligation bonds up to about $4 million, and hold a special election this year to do so.

With a fairly small crowd in attendance, most of the people who spoke advocated for improvements to the county fairgrounds.

The county issued a bond for construction of the Neil Mertz Judicial Complex. That bond will be paid in full in August.

If the county holds a special election in April, it would keep property tax rates at their current level, while allowing the county to take on a new project or projects. The county manager’s office had generated a list of proposed projects, including some items that can’t be funded by a GO bond.

Items on the county’s list of proposed projects include software, fairground improvements, a county road yard, an asphalt zipper, fire engines, improvements to fire stations, new vehicles for the sheriff’s department, upgrades to the sheriff’s offices, security for the treasurer’s office, and ambulances.

Some of those items, including software, road department equipment, and emergency equipment can’t be purchased through GO bond funds.

Since this is an election year, that would mean a special election in addition to the primary and the general elections. If the county waits until the general election, which would have the highest voter turnout, it would mean that the bond would retire, and people’s property taxes would go down, then go back up again if the bond issues were to be approved by voters.

Both Commissioner Julia DuCharme, and her husband Art DuCharme, who spoke at the meeting, said the county should not spend money to make improvements at the fairgrounds because the land on which the fairgrounds sit is owned by the town of Estancia, not the county.

Edwina Hewett made the same point when she spoke to the commission.

According to the county manager, Torrance County has a 99-year lease at a dollar a year for the fairgrounds, which she said had been renewed a few years ago.

The county took no action on the matter.