Los Lunas

The race is on. Kids throughout Los Lunas will be back in action when the Badlands BMX track opens this Saturday thanks to an agreement reached between the Village of Los Lunas and the State of New Mexico Property Control Division.

Members of the Los Lunas Village Council signed a memorandum with property control, agreeing to operate the track for the 2002 season unless both parties agree to renew the lease after Nov. 30.

“We shouldn’t jeopardize the program for the kids who are waiting to race,” Councilor Charles Griego said.

Track Operator Rick Schmidt told the council,”On behalf of the BMX community, we want to ensure the season gets going. We’d rather not interrupt the program.”

Michael Jaramillo, director of parks and recreation, said the village and parents have worked hard to negotiate the memorandum with the state.

“We are willing to work with the state on future seasons,” he said. “We appreciate you holding this special meeting for us. It shows your commitment to the community. Thanks for giving us this chance.”

Signing the memorandum is the fastest way to get the kids back on the track, said Village Administrator Phillip Jaramillo. “The council is willing to do whatever it takes to have the racing go on. I think the good thing about it, it gives us some options. If we have to leave the site, we don’t have to leave with nothing in our hands.”

In the future, if the village is removed from the property, the agreement would allow the village to take out all of the light fixtures and put them at another location.

“That’s a big plus if we get to remove all of the improvements. If we need to find a new place for the BMX park, that would really help us out. We wouldn’t have to start all over,” Jaramillo said.

The concern existed in the past, Jaramillo said, that all the property would revert to the state. “We wanted their cooperation in allowing us to keep the facility as much as possible.”

Jaramillo said parents such as Linda Thornton have been very active in fighting to keep the track going. “She helped with some of the language included in the memorandum. We’re very happy with that. Any time you have parents involved and everyone working towards the same goal, it feels good.”

After signing the memorandum, Thornton encouraged the council to stay active on the issue.

“When it comes to kids, I’m unrelenting,” she said. Strike while the iron is hot, while the issue is right on everyone’s minds. Move on with the negotiations as soon as this season gets going. That’s in our best interest.”

Sen. Michael Sanchez (D-Valencia County) said on Friday that he worked with parents and property control to finalize wording in the memorandum.

“Parents like Linda Thornton and Larry Kennedy have been instrumental in all of this. I’m very optimistic that eventually the state will continue with the BMX park,” he said.

“In the future, they will probably have to look at the lease on a year-to-year basis to see if it’s growing and continues to be used. I feel good that the park will work out for the benefit of the parents and their kids.”

The memorandum takes the place of the village’s former lease with the property control division for use of state owned land located at NM 314 and Morris Road.

The Village of Los Lunas was recently informed that it is in violation of the lease agreement with the State of New Mexico — something village officials still don’t agree with.

According to Les Swindle, director of property control, Badlands BMX does not fall under recreational facilities such as the softball and soccer fields specified under their former lease agreement with the property control division.

The BMX park, which is owned and operated by the village, is located on 2.5 acres of land of which 30 acres were recently approved in two joint resolutions by the legislature for a constructed wetlands wastewater treatment system.

The resolutions are non-binding, and the council has made it clear it will fight to keep the track in use for the youth of Los Lunas.

Michael Griego, attorney for the village, said the memorandum doesn’t waive the village’s rights to challenge the former lease agreement, which was intended to last over 26 years.

After the special meeting on Thursday, the council will tackle the issue of continuing the race track next year through the budget process.

“We’ll identify what we’ll do, whether it be continue the lease where we are or go somewhere else. We might be able to work something out with the state. There’s always a possibility we can renew our lease, but we have to explore all of the avenues. We have to look at alternative sites so we can be prepared if we have to leave,” Jaramillo said.

George Marquez, the public information officer for the state’s general services, said Friday he thinks it’s great the kids get to use the track for another year.

“We’ll see what happens down the road, year by year. The kids will definitely be on the track for this season.”

Parents present at the meeting invited the council and community to come out to Badlands BMX, eat a hamburger and watch the kids race on Saturday, March 16. Signup is at 2 p.m.; race at 4 p.m.

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Jennifer Harmon