A day nearly 20 years in the making is at hand. 

Next week, at 5 p.m., Wednesday, April 24, the Valencia County Commission will convene for a special meeting to hopefully put the county hospital project on the final trajectory to reality. 

The meeting will be held at the Valencia County administration building, 444 Luna Ave., Los Lunas.

The commissioners will consider a healthcare facilities contract with Texas-based Community Hospital Corporation — a contract that has been under negotiation since August of 2022 — the award of a design-build contract for the Valencia County Hospital and an assignment and assumption agreement for hospital land acquisition. 

These three items represent the core elements of the project — CHC to operate the facility, a company to design and build the hospital and a location. 

Because the location has been one of the most contentious parts of this project, for several years now commissions have taken a very hands-off approach to site selection by letting the operator handle that aspect. 

County attorney Dave Pato said at this point, the location hasn’t been disclosed to the commissioners. 

“I don’t know either. We are all going to find out together next week,” Pato said.  

While a four-person team has been negotiating with CHC, a not-for-profit company, on the healthcare facilities contract, the county released a request for proposal for the Phase I design-build of a hospital in February 2023. The scope of the procurement outlined in the RFP calls for a 15-bed, 35,100-square-foot facility to be sited on property within Valencia County, which is anticipated to be at least 10 acres. 

A total of five companies responded to the February RFP and those were narrowed down to a short list of three — Enterprise Builders, HB Construction and Bradbury Stamm — which were offered the chance to respond to the second phase of the RFP, which was issued in December. 

The February RFP is using what’s called a best value selection to find a team to handle the design and construction for the hospital project. It’s a two-step procurement approach that generates a short list of offerors from the Phase I RFP. In Phase II, technical performance criteria and other project requirements were given to the short-listed companies with the result being the selection of the team that provides the “best value,” a combination of qualitative factors and price.  

As per the Phase II documents, the maximum allowable constructions cost — excluding state gross receipts taxes — is $36 million. The goal is to have all phases of the entire project “substantially complete” by March 30, 2026, according to the RFP issued to the three short-listed companies. 

During the third special legislative session of 2021, the New Mexico Legislature — with the approval of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham — appropriated $50 million to the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration for an acute care hospital in a county with a population of less than 100,000.  

On March 4, 2022, the county commission and DFA signed an agreement for the $50 million to plan, design, construct, equip and furnish an acute care hospital in Valencia County. Funding for the project is through the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund and is part of the more than $1.7 billion awarded to the state in June 2021.   

One challenge identified in 2023 was the requirement the funding appropriated by the Legislature be spent by the end of 2025. During last year’s legislative session, the county convinced the Legislature to extend the deadline to 2026 and allow for 5 percent of the $50 million to be used for pre-opening expenses.  

Shortly after the agreement with DFA was signed, the county issued an RFP for an acute hospital and CHC submitted its proposal to the county in August 2022. The contents of CHC’s proposal aren’t subject to disclosure during contract negotiations. 

Funds for the operation and maintenance of a hospital facility were collected from county taxpayers in the form of a property tax — a mill levy that was approved by voters in November 2006 — that was collected from 2007 to 2014. Collections total about $27 million and those funds are being kept in an interest-bearing account at Bank of the West. 

What’s your Reaction?

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.