By Andres Torres, Mason Seidel and Joey Wagner/ NM News Port
Bernalillo County residents appeared to have approved by a large margin, six bond proposals for brick-and-mortar improvements.
Voters gave the approval for the county to issue bonds that investors will buy to raise the money for the projects. The County pays interest to the bond buyers and no taxes are raised.
Municipal bond questions are rarely controversial in New Mexico and this year is no different. The Albuquerque Journal endorsed all of the county bond questions, saying, “We’ve seen the project list and, in our opinion, it represents reasonable investments. …[that will] improve the quality of life in Bernalillo County [and] create construction jobs and contribute to economic activity.”
The list of proposals on the ballot was created over a long process involving community input, as laid out in the Bernalillo County’s six-year capital improvement plan. If the bond sales are approved, they will help the county attract more state and federal funding for the projects.
A $10.225 million bond request for transportation would be distributed between roads, bridges, bike lanes, trails, sidewalks, paving, landscaping, traffic signals, and other infrastructure.
“So many of our roads are impassable for people not driving a car and that’s not good for everyone’s health,” cyclist Johnathan Ross said in support of the bond. “It’s really good to have a bike or walk somewhere…rather than have to use a car.”
Nearly 40% of Albuquerque roads are in poor condition and 21% are in ok condition, according to January 2022 report from A National Transportation Research Non-Profit, also known as TRIP.
Wastewater and Drainage System Bond
If this is approved it will provide $4.395 million to help Albuquerque deal with water, improving storm sewers, water pipes and drains and preventing pollution.
“Our community needs to protect one of our most valuable resources, groundwater,” Bernalillo County’s Storm Drainage Maintenance employee Joey Ortiz said in an email.
“It is our main drinking water source and is getting polluted by waste and septic tank leakage. People think just because you have no issues means there are no issues. Leakage normally does not get caught for while causing groundwater and environmental pollution.”
Earlier this year a wastewater pipe broke near Albuquerque’s west side causing backups into homes and leakage into the Rio Grande, KRQE reported.
All sewage from the west side heads through that pipe before arriving at the sewage treatment plant. The water authority said that the pipe dated back to 1963 and has been identified as a “high priority for replacement.”
Public Housing Bonds
One of the smaller proposals would allot $425,000 for improvements at the county-owned housing facilities El Centro and Seybold Village, which are in the South Valley, not far from Rio Grande High School.
Units at the facilities are rented to low-income seniors and families that include a member with a disability. The money is specifically slated for energy efficiency improvements and updates to help the facilities conform to the Americans With Disabilities Act.
This is different from State General Obligation Bond 1, which would direct $24.5 million to senior living centers to centers statewide. This one is specific to Albuquerque.
Public Safety Bond Measure
Although the language on the ballot mentions a broad array of potential projects, the $12.925 million will be put toward a new Bernalillo County Sheriff’s substation in the Northeast Heights, a new fire station near Second Street and Osuna in the North Valley, improvements to the Bernalillo County Juvenile Detention Center and Youth Services Center, the Metropolitan Detention Center and PB&J Family Services.
Library Bond Measure
The library bond measure on the ballot is for $1.5 million for libraries in Bernalillo county.
From the bond itself, the money would go to “equipment, library furniture, fixtures and supplemental library resource acquisitions, including print, non-print and electronic resources, collaborative library resources and information technology projects, and for the purchase and installation of broadband internet equipment and infrastructure at tribal libraries statewide.”
The bond would also cover academic libraries, UNM’s libraries being included in that.
“The bond would go to acquisitions and digital subscriptions for the students,” said Cinnamon Blair, Chief marketing and communications officer of UNM.
While the $1.5 million covers the things needed to improve the libraries, “they could use more,” said Blair. “There’s been a library bond every cycle, this time it’s increased from last election,” she added.
Parks and Recreation Bond Measure
The parks and recreation bond, would provide $11.03 million to acquire, restore and remodel recreational facilities in Bernalillo County. Requirements by the American with Disabilities Act say bonds will be payable from general taxes and issued as the Board of County Commissioners determine.