County Commissioners Frank Pando, Helen Baca and Alicia Aguilar all voted Monday in favor of approving the renegotiated contract with Cornell Companies, which would run until 2005.
Only Commissioner Gary Daves voted against the new contract. He said he wanted more time to consider proposed Cornell expenditures, which currently cost the county $72 daily per inmate, while the new contract would cut that to $45.
With Cornell absorbing the costs of an electronic monitoring system, meaning fewer prisoners housed, the county would save an estimated $250,000 annually.
Cornell has also agreed to pay for renovations necessary to provide for a prisoner capacity of 194.
Cornell’s current contract costs the county $3,301,454, based on 126 inmates, while the renegotiated contract, based on 150 inmates, will cost $3,108,182.50. The renegotiated contract would save the county $193,272, but it must still go to the state for approval.
Despite the savings, it would still not be enough to put county employees back on a 40-hour week, and several residents spoke out against rushing to approve the contract.
“Why do you want to vote today?” C’Anne Phillips of Los Lunas asked the commission. “This is my fourth day off. Why are you doing this?
“At least put the vote off for awhile. Why are you in such a hurry when there are so many questions?”
Lillie McNabb, a Bosque Farms resident, attended Monday’s meeting to find out if a contract savings might make a difference in restoring work hours.
“I feel this county owes everyone the same benefits,” McNabb said. “The whole thing in a nutshell is: When can we bring our employees back to 40 hours?”
“This amended contract does not make the difference,” Daves said. “We still don’t have enough to give the employees 40 hours.
“We’re still not nearly there for a balanced budget. I think the county is in a horrible financial situation.”
Charles Eaton, assistant deputy county fire marshal, voiced his opinion that more time is needed to consider the contract.
“Let us know what’s going on before you act on something,” Eaton said. “Maybe after the election, four votes won’t be there.”
However, only Baca and Pando are up for re-election, and their terms of office extend through December.
Earlier in the meeting, Daves and Chairman Al Padilla were the only ones who moved that the contract be tabled for further discussion. However, Commissioners Aguilar, Baca and Pando all voted against further discussion.
Cornell’s current contract does not expire until June, 2003. However, the county is under its own deadline to get a budget approved.
“All budgets are to be approved by June 30,” said County Manager James Fernández, who has been working to find ways to save the county money.
“If the current contract runs as it is, you would not have the cash for it,” Fernández pointed out in response to Aguilar’s proposal to let the current Cornell contract run until June, 2003.
Many of the county sheriff’s deputies were in attendance Monday, and one spoke out against two of the commissioners accepting campaign contributions from Cornell.
“Most of the people in this county won’t understand why you took the money,” he said in reference to Baca and Pando, who both accepted campaign donations from Cornell. “I can’t just take money from somebody when I write a ticket.”
Deputies are interested in a salary increase and money to maintain vehicles that are driven all day long on a daily basis, as one of them pointed out.
“The 1/8 tax started coming in, in April,” Fernández said, and that will be used for the sheriff’s department.