County considers new events center plan

By David Irvin

Curry County’s proposed events center was back in the spotlight on Tuesday with a new plan.

The latest proposal, from Schlegel Lewis Architects of Albuquerque, is to build a facility next to the county fairgrounds’ Mounted Patrol Arena, which could share some of the outdoor rodeo arena’s infrastructure.

One element that might be shared between the structures would be the rodeo chutes, County Manager Geneva Cooper said.

Commissioners voted Tuesday to begin negotiations with the firm for a study comparing costs of a covered arena vs. a separate facility.

Commissioners had previously considered placing a cover on the Mounted Patrol Arena, thereby creating a multi-purpose events center. At Tuesday’s meeting, there was some opposition to that plan.

“I haven’t talked to a single soul who wants that arena covered,” said former City Commissioner Gloria Wicker. “Let’s build a new facility. I think the public would be very satisfied.”

County officials expressed concerns that estimates and actual costs can vary.

Commissioner Ed Perales called into question the accuracy of budgets received from previous architecture firms and said there is no way to determine if the Lewis firm’s estimates would ultimately match up to a contractor’s bid. Concerns about the inflated cost of steel cast further questions on whether previous budgets would be reliable today.

“If the firm says it is going to cost $2, then how do we know the bid will be $2?” Perales asked.

Commissioner Pete Hulder pointed out a provision in the $3 million bond issue, passed in October 2001 by voters, stating the county must begin using the funds raised for the construction project by November.

It was unclear at the meeting whether that date could be extended, but Cooper said later Tuesday the bond would continue as long as the commission was working on the project. If the project dies without building a facility, the bond would be retired and taxes would be reduced.
Also on Tuesday, commissioners:

• Passed five resolutions proposed by the road department requesting funds from the state for road maintenance within Curry County;

• Unanimously accepted the only proposal received to fulfill the county’s obligation to provide mental health evaluations to jail detainees;

• Tabled a discussion on a flood-protection plan citing too many extraneous provisions required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency;

• Passed a motion to re-examine the county sheriff’s request to formally change office hours as part of overall courthouse policy;

• Passed a motion to waive a $5 penalty on delinquent property taxes and a $5 administrative fee for 2004 tax year.