Judicial complex to cost $33 million

Courtesy graphic A proposed $33 million judicial complex would occupy three blocks from Seventh to 10th Streets.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

A $33 million plan to revamp county offices and the courts got a nod of approval from commissioners Tuesday.

The plan — presented by Albuquerque architectural firm Rohde, May, Keller, McNamara — calls for a general obligation bond of $16.5 million and a .25 percent Gross Receipts Tax increase to be voted on in the November General Election.

Commissioners Bobby Sandoval, Frank Blackburn and Wendell Bostwick voted to approve the plan.

Bostwick voted by telephone.

Commissioners Dan Stoddard and Caleb Chandler were absent.

The plan for creating a “Curry County Criminal Justice Complex” involves acquiring and developing all the property between Main and Mitchell streets from Seventh to 10th Street.

Zip Printing, MasterTrim, The Hartley House and two residences lie within the tract and would be part of that acquisition and ultimately demolished, architect Dave Williams said.

The end result would be a two-story, male addition to the jail, remodeling of the existing jail, a new courts building and an addition for a remodeling of the juvenile detention center.

Explaining the master concept, Don May told commissioners, “We cannot afford to abandon our existing detention center.”

May said planning for the detention center, which accounts for the largest portion of the renovations and development, is based on a growing inmate population that’s between 30 and 50 percent above that of other similar size counties.

Projections for needs could change, he said, in the event other steps are taken to slow or change the population growth pattern at facility.

Plans also include renovating and using the Gidding Street post office, recently purchased by the county.

The recommendations are based on projected growth and needs through 2025, he said.

Williams said the project would take place in multiple phases of demolition, renovation and construction, resulting in a three-block complex that includes improved parking and landscaping.

A financial plan incorporating a bond and increased gross receipts taxes was devised, because, “There’s no one, single source that can support this project’s scope,” May said.

May said the plan presented to commissioners is a master concept, a culmination of about five months of data collection, analysis, interviews and site inspections, concluding the second phase of his firm’s assessment work.

But it’s not the completed master plan, he said, explaining a final plan, complete with bond election assistance, is yet to be presented.

May said there is a lot of flexibility in the planning of the complex and the details are still being worked out.

“The primary intent is to make sure we’re making good global decisions,” he said. “There’s full flexibility in the master plan … It has to be a living thing because department needs change.”

“We’re ready to proceed,” May said, explaining there is enough time ahead of the election for the county to begin the process of getting the bond and GRT change on voter’s ballots.

Bostwick said he was confident in the plan and glad to see decisions being made toward improving and growing county facilities and lauded the choice to grow the county facilities in place.

“I think we’ve made the right choice in staying downtown for the viability of the community,” he said.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Curry County Commissioners:

• Adopted a flood plain management system requested by Tim Lyman with the assessor’s office.

• Approved a purchase agreement to buy 417 Gidding Street from the U.S. Postal Service at a price of $750,000.

• Heard a report on road projects from Road Superintendent Chris Pacheco. Pacheco said paving projects on Curry roads K and 13 are completed.

Pacheco also said the process has been started to close North Curry Road C. The road is unused and unnecessary, and adjoining property owners have asked the county to close it because it is virtually impassable. Pacheco said he recently had to go assist a census worker whose vehicle became stuck on the road as she was canvassing the area for residents.

• Heard a report from Detention Center Administrator Keith Norwood. Norwood said his staff conducted two shakedowns last week and found numerous items of contraband including handmade knives, syringes and tattooing machines.

Norwood said Tuesday morning inmates in Pod 3 refused to leave their pod for a search and law enforcement was called in to assist. The inmates were removed without use of force and are on a three-day disciplinary lockdown.

• Approved a request by Events Center Manager Kevin Jolley to increase fair tickets by $2 for weekly passes and $1 for general admission. Jolley said to reduce confusion encountered last year, this year’s fair tickets will grant admission to concerts and other events held at the fair.