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Money in its many forms was the big excitement during recent administrative meetings of the Bernalillo County Commission. The five-member governing body also tackled a cache of issues other than taking care of the budget. They took on such things as new furniture, picking a builder for a new Route 66 Visitors Center, approving some new affordable housing on the city’s Westside, making better broadband and safer roads a priority at their Jan. 26 and Feb. 9 meetings.

Money In, Money Out

Commissioners spent about $526,600 on additional furniture to pretty up the county’s new Downtown digs, located in the former PNM’s Alvarado building at Silver and Fourth Street. The building was relatively cheap at $2.7 million, but the renovation costs have hit north of $67 million before unavoidable furnishings and other necessary bling. It is hoped construction will be done in April. No telling when all the employees will move in.

Another couple of chunks of free money: a $250,000 grant was appropriated for the Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant and Substance Abuse Site-based Program, which puts real substance abuse help on the ground, and $750,000 in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds was accepted to help with COVID-19.

Another biggie was getting a grant and then budgeting more than $1.6 million to hold a special election to fill the U.S. Representative vacancy for the First Congressional District. The special election is the state’s first since 1988 when Rep. Heather Wilson beat Green Bob Anderson and Democrat Phil Maloof. This one seeks to fill the seat of Deb Haaland, who has resigned to become United States secretary of the interior. The special election has to be held between 77 and 91 days of her confirmation. There will be no primary; the state’s central committees of the major parties will choose the nominees.

American Gypsum will be the recipient of $22 million in Industrial Revenue Bonds to improve its facilities. This is the big plant on the south side of Paseo del Norte, just west of Jefferson, that has white stuff in piles. It makes all kinds of gypsum products. Industrial Revenue Bonds are tools governments can issue on behalf of a private sector business to build and or acquire factories, tools and other equipment. The bonds raise the capital, then are repaid by the revenue the project generates.

Commissioners also approved Project Revenue Bonds for two multi-family affordable housing complexes on Coors Boulevard that will benefit 200 low to moderate income residents. These types of bonds are used to provide financing for the construction and/or rehabilitation of affordable multi-housing projects. The two complexes are La Serena, 78 units for 55 and older, and San Roque, 136 apartments for all ages. Both are located on Coors between Los Volcanes and Bluewater.

Tribute to the Mother Road

A shiny new visitor center will soon be popping up on the west end of our beloved Route 66—or Central Avenue as it is called through the metro area. The award went to Enterprise Builders Corp. for a tad more than $9.6 million. The 21,000-square-foot multipurpose center will be located atop Nine Mile Hill, near Atrisco Vista and Interstate 40. It will have event spaces, outdoor amphitheater, a Rt. 66 museum, taproom, gift shop and outdoor spaces for a pop-up drive-in theater or car shows.

Let’s Get It Started

Commissioners approved two notable resolutions set to help residents living in a couple fringe areas. Resolutions do not carry funding, just intent to pursue options. One of them is in the South Valley and encourages the county, city and state to work together to improve a nearly five-mile stretch of the notoriously dangerous N.M. State Road 45, or Coors Boulevard, between Central Avenue and Gun Club. The other is to make it a priority to expand and improve broadband connections in the East Mountain area where residents have struggled to get broadband service.

Stepping Up

Commissioners appointed the following civic-minded residents who are doing their part to keep the public’s voice involved in government boards and commissions: Susan Reyes and Barron Jones to the Detention Facility Management Oversight Advisory Board; Mike Hays to the Older American Advisory Board; Havens Levitt to the Senior Affairs Advisory Board; Christine Marie Sierra and Alex Adams to the Board of Registration.

Helping Out During COVID

Commissioners accepted a $5 million dollar grant at the Feb. 9 meeting to help Bernalillo County residents who have fallen behind on their rent and utility bills during the pandemic. The funds will be dispersed after March 1 when the applications will begin to be accepted. This pot of money is for Bernalillo County residents who do not live within the Albuquerque city limits. There is about $24 million in a city fund to help the urban Bernalillo County residents that can be accessed through cabq.gov.

There is some well-needed help available for vulnerable family households who may have become recently homeless due to the ongoing pandemic. The county has set up a new fund and is partnering with the Albuquerque Public Schools through the McKinney-Vento program to provide temporary hotel vouchers to displaced families with school age children. Here is the link to the referral form: aps.edu/title-i/mckinney-vento-program/student-referral-form. If you want to be a helper, then you can go here and make a donation to the fund at donatenow.networkforgood.org. The pandemic has taken its toll on school-age children in ways unimaginable a year ago, so help out the ones who may get lost in the cracks.

For those on the frontlines of healthcare, the county is offering one-on-one mental health resources through its Community CARE Campus, either virtual or in person. The County’s behavioral health folks saw that those who take care of the public in medical and trauma situations do not always take care of themselves. For more information: bernco.gov/Department-Behavioral-Health-Services/default.aspx.

The next administrative meetings of the Bernalillo County Commission are set for 5pm on Feb. 23 and March 9 on GOV-TV or the Bernalillo County YouTube channel.

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