Sandoval County Administration Building

BERNALILLO — The Sandoval County Commission approved hiring a new certified emergency-vehicle technician on a split vote Thursday night.
Commissioners Jay Block, David Heil and Kenneth Eichwald supported the move, while Commissioners Katherine Bruch and Michael Meek voted against it at their regular meeting. Meek, a retired Rio Rancho fire chief, had moved to postpone the decision, but the motion died for lack of a second.
Block, Bruch and Meek complained that they weren’t provided with a budget analysis to give them enough data for the decision.
“I keep asking, all the time, for the cost analysis — tell me why you’re doing something because I want to know if it’s more effective for the taxpayers of Sandoval County,” Block said.
County Fire Chief Eric Masterson said his department has been sending its emergency vehicles to third-party vendors for repairs that require work by an emergency-vehicle technician (EVT), with costs of $130-$150 an hour for labor. A county-employed tech would cost $28 an hour, he said.
“If we can recruit and hire an EVT internally, under the Public Works Department, and then utilize state fire funds, basically by being invoiced by the Public Works Department, to pay for that EVT, it’ll significantly reduce our costs when it comes to maintenance of our vehicles,” Masterson said.
According to county information, the state would cover $80,000 a year, including salary and benefits, for the technician. The county would pay for a vehicle, tools and equipment for the EVT, including those necessary for emergency repairs at any hour.
Masterson said it costs about $100,000-$150,000 a year for having third-party EVTs work on fire department vehicles.
Public Works Director Mark Hatzenbuhler, who oversees the Vehicle Maintenance Department, said those costs would come out of the state fire fund instead of the county general fund if the county had an EVT.
Meek said he didn’t know how the tech would fit into the county budget, which already includes 22 new positions, or if the EVT would cost only what Masterson expected. He was concerned the county might have to pay for an EVT, plus the same amount of outside vendor costs.
Sandoval County Fire and Rescue Department has about 120 pieces of fire and rescue apparatus, Masterson said.
In other business, commissioners:
• Banned the sale and use of most fireworks in unincorporated Sandoval County in an effort to prevent fires during drought conditions. Fireworks approved as “safe and sane” are still allowed.
• Passed the final piece of legislation necessary to move forward with supporting Intel’s $3.5 billion expansion of its local plant. The ordinance provides county Local Economic Development Act money to Intel, provides a gross receipts tax break and approves agreements among Intel, the county, the City of Rio Rancho and the State of New Mexico.
• Approved declaring intent to issue private activity bonds to support construction of Casa de Encantada, an apartment complex for senior citizens who qualify for affordable housing. The bonds would be repaid from money generated by the project, not county funds.
• Voted to publish their intent to apply for two New Mexico Finance Authority loans: a five-year $2.38 million loan for seven to eight pieces of road equipment and a 10-year, $1.8 million loan for cost overruns in constructing a new county public safety building. He and other advisers are looking for better options for financing those projects.