By Jack King
Curry County commissioners may have found a way to build a special events center at a price the county can afford, Commissioner Pete Hulder said Tuesday.
Hulder, a member of the commission’s special events center subcommittee, said he has talked with county maintenance supervisor Lee Delk about remodeling the rodeo arena at the county fairgrounds.
For approximately $2.5 million, the county could erect a metal building that would fit over parts of the arena. The county has $3 million on hand from a tax increase voters approved in 2001, Hulder said.
The new arena would be approximately 82,500 square feet, with an arena floor measuring 270-by-150 feet. It would have a new concession stand with a complete kitchen, insulated roll-up doors on either end, an economical heating and cooling system and other facilities, he said.
The commissioners will discuss the proposal further at their March 16 meeting, Hulder said.
“It appears we can get a facility that offers all the features we wanted, that we couldn’t get for $4 million to $5 million or $16 to $18 million,” he added, referring to earlier project proposals.
In other business, commissioners approved a proposal from the county clerk’s office to spend $22,500 to purchase three new voting machines. A bill passed by the state Legislature in 2003 requires county clerks to report absentee voting by precinct, but current voting machines are only able to report voting by Legislative district, said Deputy Clerk Coni Jo Lyman.
New Mexico Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, told commissioners they are required by law to obtain the three new voting machines. She said the law was intended to give legislators information about voting at the precinct level.
Commissioner Ed Perales called the new state law “an unfunded mandate” that does little to help local voters.
“We begged. We pleaded with (the Legislature) not to pass this law,” Lyman said. “We said, ‘Do you know how much this is going to cost the counties?’ Quite honestly, they never heard us.”
Lyman said during the county’s upcoming budgeting process the clerk’s office also will ask commissioners for $30,000 as a first payment on a $300,000 loan from the state Board of Finance to replace 40 aging voting machines. She said the Board of Finance offers no-interest loans, which can be repaid over a 10-year period, to pay for new machines.
County Manager Geneva Cooper said, in order to pay indigent medical expenses, the county is paying out more than it is receiving from the gross-receipts tax dedicated to its indigent fund. The excess cost is primarily a result of covering medical expenses for inmates at the adult detention center, she said.
Detention center Administrator Don Burdine said 200 adult prisoners were housed in the detention center Tuesday. Another 91 Curry County prisoners were being held at the Dickens County detention center, six are being held in other facilities, five in other facilities, three on court-ordered furlough, three in diagnostic detention and two in the U.S. Marshal’s office in Bernalillo County.