Valencia County commissioners prioritized and approved millions of dollars of capital outlay project requests they hope state legislators will be able to fund.

One project — a proposed senior/community center in the far west community of Highland Meadows — was moved up in the rankings in the county’s Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan at the request of a commissioner.

“I was talking with Commissioner (Gerard) Saiz this morning and we would both like to see it pushed up further,” said Commissioner Tom Mraz. “Those people need something else out there.”

Mraz said he made inquiries with county staff and found there was an acre of property the county owned on N.M. 6 in Highland Meadows, adjacent to the existing fire station.

“I know people like to live out there to be away from everything, but they still need community services,” he said.

Highland Meadows is in the far northwest corner of the county, about 40 miles west of the village of Los Lunas in Commission District 1, represented by Saiz.

Commissioner Charles Eaton said he had no issue with moving the project higher than its initial ranking of No. 12, so long as the effort was made to ensure its full use.

“In the past, we’ve funded these types of facilities, some with a (law enforcement) substation, and the end result is we are not fully using them as community centers or substations,” Eaton said.

He continued, saying designating a building a “multi-generational center” rather than a “community center” could open up funding sources.

“When something is titled a community center, it falls to the local entities to fund,” he said. “If we make it a multi-generational center, we can tap into youth program funding at the state level.”

This is the first year the commission has put the Highland Meadows project on its ICIP list.

Public works director Lina Benavidez suggested swapping the center with the No. 9 project, abandoned property abatement, since it has already received $500,000 in funding.

The commissioners agreed the request for the facility should specify it was a multi-use building, for all ages.

County Manager Danny Monette said this is a good time to request a multi-generational center.

“The current administration is looking for projects like this, especially if we can include the Older Americans Program,” Monette said.

Other projects in the top 10 include:

• Jarales Road overpass at the triple-track railroad crossing ($6.4 million),

• Interstate 25 interchange and east/west corridor ($350,000)

• Upgrade to the camera system at the 13th Judicial District Courthouse and other county buildings ($320,000)

• Emergency communication system for the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office ($2.8 million)

• Interoperable communication equipment for the Valencia County Fire Department ($200,000)

• Rehabilitation and renovations to the second floor of the county administration building, including furnishing, sprinkler system and replacement of the elevator ($500,000)

• Emergency generator for the Valencia County Detention Center, Emergency Management Office, Bureau of Elections and IT ($97,000)

• Full body scanner for VCDC ($135,000)

• Construction of a new county administration and district attorney office ($1 million)

Capital improvement projects for local Older Americans Programs are submitted in a separate request, which was presented by Community Development Director Nancy Gonzales.

She recommended removal of the No. 5 project on the list, $100,000 for kitchen equipment at the yet-to-be-built center in Highland Meadows.

The remaining four projects totaled $780,000 in requested funding for six passenger transportation vans, renovations at the Del Rio Senior Center, a security system at the Meadow Lake Center, and kitchen equipment at the El Cerro Senior Center.

Renovations at Del Rio will include expansion of the kitchen, the addition of a walk-in refrigerator and freezer and replacement of the heating and cooling system.

“In El Cerro Mission, we have a building that we need to outfit with usable equipment,” Gonzales said. “This will help us make this a meal site that will make it beneficial for everyone in the area.”

Both ICIPs were approved on a 3-0 vote; commissioners David Hyder and Gerard Saiz were not at the special meeting.

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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.