The Rio Rancho Governing Body has rearranged budget priorities with the aim of attracting businesses to the intersection of Unser and King boulevards by improving infrastructure there.
At the governing body meeting Wednesday at City Hall, Mayor Gregg Hull proposed several mid-year budget adjustments — one that caused controversy — to start gathering money to repave, replace water lines and install sewer lines on King from Unser to Wilpett Road.
Hull said representatives of four gas stations and a small retailer had looked at building a facility on a corner of King and Unser since he’d been in office, but they walked away because of the expense of putting in proper infrastructure. He wanted to use unexpected revenue in the budget to “cue up” the intersection for economic development that would serve the Northern Meadows subdivision.
“It’s a food and service desert out there, and they’ve been waiting years and years to get relief,” Hull said.
According to city information, the general fund has received almost $4.4 million more revenue than projected this fiscal year, which started July 1. Financial Services Director Carole Jaramillo said $3.5 million of that amount comes from gross receipts taxes, including the city’s share of internet sales GRT and a one-time payment from the state after a large food retailer adjusted its GRT reports for several years.
Jaramillo suggested using the unexpected income for various purposes, including:
• $50,000 to revise the city’s Campus Center Master Plan;
• $50,000 to remodel unused space in City Hall into a conference room and office;
• $60,000 to cover the cost of a telephone lease termination;
• $84,000 for Animal Resource Center improvements;
• $119,000 to replace two books sorters at Loma Colorado Main Library and $81,000 for a five-year maintenance agreement for them;
• $200,000 for sidewalk repairs throughout the city;
• $500,000 for undetermined road improvements;
• $850,000 to build Campus Park, the bid for which was more expensive than expected;
• $600,000 to design a new facility for building and fleet maintenance; and
• $1.23 million for new financial software.
Deputy City Manager Peter Wells said road, water line and sewer work on King would cost $3 million. To help pay for it, Hull proposed to move the following money to the project:
• The $500,000 for unspecified road work;
• The $600,000 for a fleet and building maintenance facility design;
• $230,000 of the financial software money; and
• $90,000 of the Campus Park money.
Those moves gathered $1.4 million. Hull suggested the city staff could look for other available money, including in economic development fund and possible savings from other road projects.
If they couldn’t find enough in about 90 days, he said they could put the money back toward the previous purposes.
City Manager David Campbell said economic development is an absolute must and agreed Northern Meadows and Mariposa are far from food and service providers.
“So doing something about King and Unser makes sense,” he said.
However, Campbell continued, the city needs a new maintenance facility and showing money set aside for that purpose would provide the best chance of getting the construction funds.
Councilor Jennifer Flor said she didn’t like the idea of speculating with city money on an undeveloped corner.
“I get nervous,” she said.
In the end, the governing body approved all of Hull’s suggested changes, although sometimes on split votes.
Flor and Councilors Marlene Feuer and Dave Bency voted against repurposing the maintenance facility money, while Councilors Jim Owen, Jeremy Lenentine and Bob Tyler supported it. Hull broke the tie in favor of the move.
Only Bency opposed moving $230,000 away from the software purchase, and support of switching $90,000 from Campus Park to the King project was unanimous.
Also, the governing body voted unanimously to move another $10,000 from Campus Park to help cover uniforms, training and other expenses for volunteer police and fire chaplains.
In other business, governing body members:
• Awarded a $2.13 million contract to Albuquerque Asphalt Inc. to repave Southern Boulevard from Unser to Rainbow Boulevard. The project includes repaving the two traffic lanes, installing Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramps and adding a right-turn bay at Baltic Avenue to solve a safety concern. Public Works Director BJ Gottlieb said he hoped work would start Feb. 10.
• Heard the city received a clean report from its yearly audit.
• Listened to Hull proclaim Feb. 7-14 Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week in Rio Rancho.
• Recognized the R4 Robotics team for taking first place overall at the regional TX BEST robotics competition in December in Texas for the second year in a row.
• Honored Deputy Police Chief Jason Bowie for 25 years of service, Deputy Fire Chief James DeFillippo and Fire Battalion Chief Marc Sandoval for 20 years of service and dispatcher Jennifer Watts, Park Maintenance Supervisor Simon Parra and Building Maintenance Supervisor Brian Predika for 15 years of service.
• Allowed Hull to withdraw from the agenda a resolution that would have established guidelines for staff communication with governing body members upon introducing new or significantly increasing municipal fees.