In the hopes of drawing more responses to a request for proposal to build a hospital in Valencia County, the county commissioners pushed the deadline to respond out by 60 days.

Valencia County attorney Dave Pato told commissioners one of the two health care companies interested in responding to the RFP asked to extend the deadline to submit proposals. The original RFP was released on March 17 with a due date of June 17.

“The board is under a fairly significant time constraint,” Pato said.

In March, the commissioners approved an agreement with the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration for a $50 million appropriation to plan, design, construct, equip and furnish an acute care hospital in Valencia County.

The agreement requires the money be spent by July 15, 2025.

The two companies that have expressed interest in the project are Lovelace Health System, in Albuquerque; and Community Hospital Corporation, out of Plano, Texas.

Just because these two companies have shown interest in the county’s RFP doesn’t guarantee they will submit proposals.

Pato said it was completely within the commission’s discretion to extend the deadline by 60 days, none or anywhere in between.

Commission Chairman Gerard Saiz said there was a good chance the project will hit delays and sticking to the original deadline might limit the number of offers the county receives.

Commissioner Joseph Bizzell made a motion to extend the deadline by 30 days, and Commissioner David Hyder seconded the motion.

Commissioner Jhonathan Aragon said it would be advisable to be flexible on the 30 days, leaving it up to Pato and county manager, Danny Monette, to negotiate the time, possibly up to 40 or 45 days.

The attorney said he would rather have the board set the time limit to be fair to all offerors.

“If someone wants more time, they can come back,” he said. “At some point, it becomes unfair to other offerors. We want to keep competition in play but at some point it becomes unfair.”

Monette noted both offerers “have been told time and time again we are under a time crunch. They are aware.”

Commissioner Troy Richardson commented that if one of the offereors was asking for more time, it might be worth the delay to get more and better quality responses.

“It seems more important to get a good response. It may be better to give more time rather than hurt the quality of responses,” Richardson said.

Pato agreed, saying more time might result in  higher quality offers.

Bizzell amended his motion to grant a 60-day extension, and Hyder amended his second. The commission voted 5-0 to extend the deadline for responses to the hospital RFP to 2 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 16.

At the May 4 commission meeting, commissioners agreed $3.2 million of the $50 million allocated by the state for the construction of a hospital could be used by the successful provider for preparation of the  yet-to-be selected site, which the company will purchase then donate to the county.

Commissioners also agreed to dole out the collected mill levy funds to the provider over 10 years, starting with a lump sum of $5.4 million the first year, then $2.7 million for years two through nine. The original RFP called for the larger sum be disbursed in the 10th year.

The county commissioners also rejected the idea of allowing a provider to offer a freestanding emergency department rather than a full hospital in response to the RFP.

Funds for the operation and maintenance of a future hospital facility have been collected from county taxpayers in the form of a mill levy that was collected from 2007 to 2014. So far, it has amassed more than $26.6 million in an interest-bearing account at Bank of the West.

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.