BERNALILLO – Sandoval County Commissioners have unanimously approved pay raises for detention officers and a contract for a new building to house the sheriff’s office and emergency operations center.

The votes came during their meeting Thursday in the county administration building.

This rendering shows the planned Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office/Emergency Operations Center building. Courtesy of RMKM Architecture PC.

The planned Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office and emergency operations building is expected to be a little more than 19,000 square feet in two stories. The contract hires Enterprise Builders Corp. to construct the facility for $9.97 million, the lowest bid submitted, according to county information.

The money is a combination of local, state and federal funds.

Public Works Director Mark Hatzenbuhler said the building would be near the county animal shelter, on the north side of the county administration campus. He said he hoped to schedule construction as soon as possible, and the contract allowed 18 months to finish the project, including extra time to account for supply chain issues.

Commissioner Dave Heil said voters approved a bond for a public-safety building in 2018, but COVID-19 and inflation delayed construction.

“This is one domino in a series of things,” he said.

The planned building will allow the sheriff’s office to move out of the 13th Judicial District Court building, freeing up space for the new district judge allotted to the county and possibly for Sandoval County Magistrate Court to move in, Heil said. The State of New Mexico would pay the county rent to house magistrate court.

In another matter, the commission approved a new collective bargaining agreement between the county and the Sandoval County Detention Center employees, who were represented as part of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

New wages for jail employees range from $18.15 an hour to $20.95 an hour, depending upon length of time in the union, with sergeants making $22.50 an hour, according to county information. The county would also pay an additional 2 percent of employee contributions to the Public Employees Retirement Association pension plan.

Detention center Administrator Gilbert Armendariz said the raises bring pay close to wages offered in surrounding markets, which rewards long-time detention officers and helps retention and recruitment.

Armendariz said turnover at SCDC is similar to other facilities where he’s worked. Employees may leave because of pay, work hours and dealing with inmates, while others get used to the situation and stay long-term, he said.

Improvements to the jail facility and equipment improved morale, he said, but COVID-19 hurt it for some of the officers.

“It was just depending, again, on the officer and the mindset they took,” Armendariz said.

County Manager Wayne Johnson said starting pay for detention officers would come before the commission in a couple of weeks, as it was separate from the union agreement.

Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Director Kym Dicome leads the audience in applauding Brad Stebleton, who is retiring after 24 years with the county, during the commission meeting Thursday. Argen Marie Duncan / Observer.

In other business, commissioners:

  • Approved a $817,000 contract with Valley Fence Co. to build a fence at the landfill along Paseo del Volcan to Idalia Road to stop blowing trash from leaving the property. Hatzenbuhler said that was the first phase of a larger litter fence.
  • Approved a contract with Rio Rancho-based Parkhill for the company to oversee compliance with environmental regulations at the landfill for three years, with an option to add another year. Hatzenbuhler said Parkhill has provided those services to the county for 24 years.
  • Listened as nearly 20 county residents said during the public comment period that they don’t trust the voting system and want to go back to using hand-counted paper ballots. Now, county voters mark paper ballots and feed them into machines to be counted. Commissioner Michael Meek later said officials were working on getting out information and looking into issues in the election process.
  • Awarded a contract to First American Financial Advisers to keep working with financial adviser Rob Burpo, who’s provided the service to the county since 1999. Commissioner Jay Block said Burpo had saved the county about $20 million during that time. The county will pay him $9,200 a month, the same fee it’s paid him since 2015.
  • Changed the county mileage and per diem policy for employees who travel on official business to always match the state’s mileage and per diem rates.
  • Updated a Local Economic Development Act agreement with Intel Corp. to clarify which gross receipts tax increments are counted toward the 50 percent construction GRT refund Intel gets as an incentive for its ongoing expansion here.
  • Awarded an almost $137,000 contract to Roadrunner Public Health Inc. for control of disease-carrying vectors, particularly mosquitoes.