Some Sandoval County library bond money will get reallocated if libraries aren’t able to spend the money by a June 7 deadline, which the Sandoval County Board of Commissioners voted to approve at its meeting Wednesday night. The leftover money is from a 2019 bond that went unspent due to project delays from the COVID-19 pandemic
The pandemic caused county libraries to close and library projects to stall. This resulted in $160,000 of unspent money. Libraries then got a one-year extension to spend the money.
The county asked the libraries to consolidate a list of projects they believe could be completed by June 7, which included an $107,000 HVAC project from the Placitas Community Library and a $3,600 lighting upgrade project for the Corrales Community Library.
This leaves $49,000 left to be spent before the deadline, County Manager Wayne Johnson said.
“So the issue we have is when we told the investors and the bondholders about this program, we said the projects will have an average life of at least seven years” he said. “The other issues is basically the IRS says they want you to spend the money within three years (and) they gave you an extra year.”
Another issue is that this bond for the libraries has a 2% interest rate, and if the $49,000 of leftover money goes unspent it will be used to make the next bond payments on what is over $500,000 in debt service.
Commissioner Chairman David Heil said there were many things that could have been handled better regarding the library bond.
“It would have been nice to have a library board proposed by the county commission on 9-14- 22. A board could have been engaged in reviewing the status of the use of the funds,” Hail said. “But the library board came to a stop in the city manager's office on November 17 because the city (Rio Rancho) couldn't agree on the makeup of the board.”
He went on to list the way the funding could have been better handled including the email requesting projects for the funding being sent out before April 10, a longer turn-around time for library responses (they were only given four days) and having a gathering of librarians meet to review the funds.
Commissioner Joshua Jones said he wanted to make sure the tribal libraries in his district have an opportunity to take advantage of the funding. Commissioner Jay Block added that he was concerned about how transparent the process was to allocate the bond money.
In other county business, the Sandoval County Detention Center released its quarterly restrictive housing, also known as solitary confinement, report. For the period between January and April 2023, five inmates were kept in solitary confinement. The longest serving inmate was kept in solitary for 18 days.
However, all inmates had violations regarding their daily release times. Inmates in solitary confinement can only be in their cells for 23 hours a day. The detention center’s reasoning for solitary confinement was listed as “other” and no further details were given.
In New Mexico, the Corrections Restricted Housing Act, passed in 2019, requires the New Mexico Department of Corrections to report the number of inmates being kept in solitary confinement and the reasons why. It also bans juveniles, pregnant women and people with mental illnesses from being kept in solitary confinement.
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