Thursday, June 8, 2023

Letter to the Editor: Vote Yes on Courthouse Expansion


This letter is provided as opinion/commentary from the author. You can submit your own:

By Jay C. Block, Sandoval County Commissioner

Citizens of Sandoval County, I implore you this November to vote YES to the General Obligation Bond for the courthouse expansion for the 13th Judicial District Court. Our judicial process and the right to an expedient trial are important aspects of our constitution.  The residents of Sandoval, Cibola, and Valencia Counties must keep this right. What Sandoval County residents don’t need is to spend more taxpayer money by keeping people longer than necessary at our Detention Center or pay for outside security when the Court has to hold jury selection off-site in another location. Sandoval County is the fastest growing county in our State and we must unite for this vote as it benefits all citizens. The Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the Courthouse expansion citing “the need for public safety in our community.”

Make no mistake—this expansion is a necessity.  It is not a grandiose design, rather it is practical and affordable, costing the Sandoval County taxpayer approximately $20 a year in property taxes on a $300,000 home, and that cost declines after four years! Also, please remember: State statute dictates that “Each board of county commissioners shall provide adequate quarters for the operation of the district court, including juvenile probation services, and provide necessary utilities and maintenance service for the operation and upkeep of district court facilities.” If you think that this isn’t enforceable, ask the people of Otero County; they are currently being sued by the court. Believe me, that’s not what we want for Sandoval County nor is it what our people deserve. We value our judges and our court system—your YES vote will reflect upholding our constitutional values.

Right now, judges can only have courtroom space three days a week, and trials and many hearings are scheduled out six months or more. If you think that a diminished court schedule doesn’t affect you or someone you know, consider these situations:

  • Victims have to wait longer for their aggressors to come to trial (and we taxpayers foot the room and board bill at our Detention Center at $95 per day, per person);
  • Contested divorces can be delayed two years or more significantly affecting the quality of life of the individuals and any minor children of those marriages; and
  • Real estate issues are often a low priority so that the property that should be condemned will continue to be a blight on the neighborhood for years.

I understand that the Bond Question asks for approval for up to $41M to expand the existing 13th Judicial District courthouse facilities. What I want you to understand is that our County is actively seeking other sources to assist the financing of that expansion with state capital outlay and grant funding. If we postpone this expansion, then we will be responsible for an even bigger price tag going forward. Let’s get this done now instead of pushing this down the road on our kids who will have to pay.


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