Commissioner tries to revisit alcohol sales

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Robert Sandoval begged his fellow commissioners Tuesday to revisit the issue of alcohol sales at the Special Events Center before three new commissioners take office next year.

Sandoval said the county needs the extra $300,000 a year alcohol sales and sponsorships would generate for a facility that is projected to lose up to $500,000 annually in its first few years of operation.

“I have not had any commissioners or anybody else tell me where this money is going to come from,” he said during Tuesday’s Curry County Commission meeting. “I don’t know any other alternative and (the issue is) not going away.”

Sandoval interjected his comments after commissioners approved a $1 million bid by K Barnett and Sons to build a parking lot at the center, which is expected to open early next year.

Sandoval said he saw approval of the parking lot bid as an opportunity to broach the subject of alcohol sales again.

In September 2007, commissioners voted 3-2 against selling alcohol at the SEC. The decision was made despite warnings from Global Spectrum, the firm that manages the city’s civic center, that without alcohol sales, operating losses would edge toward $500,000 a year for at least four years before the facility would break even.

Sandoval and Commissioner Pete Hulder said at the time they hoped the issue would be revisited.

During his Tuesday rant to commissioners, Sandoval said he does not want to see incoming commissioners burdened with the issue and believes it is the responsibility of the current commission to resolve it.

Though he acknowledged there were members of the public opposed to the possibility of alcohol sales, he stressed that the potential losses must be considered by commissioners.

“It’s a hard choice and we were elected to make hard choices, even if it doesn’t make all our constituents happy,” he said. “I would beg this commission to take a look at this (again).”

There were no responses from commissioners as they moved on to other business at the conclusion of Sandoval’s comments.

Tim Ashley and Hulder will reach their term limits in December and Albin Smith is not seeking re-election.

Construction of the roughly 400-space parking lot and an access road will include excavation of more than 19,000 cubic yards of dirt, installation of drainage and a pavement surface that is estimated to last 20 years, according to engineer Chad Lydick, who talked to commissioners about the bid.

Lydick estimated the project could be completed before December.

More than $800,000 for the project will come from state appropriations money and the remainder can be pulled from the center’s construction budget, County manager Lance Pyle told commissioners.

A status update on the building construction — completion of detail and finish work is expected by Nov. 15 — will be given at the Nov. 4 meeting, Pyle said.

After the parking lot, which will cover about half the SEC’s parking needs, an estimated $3 million remains with another parking area to come and about $2 million anticipated costs for amenities, Pyle said.

Meetings watch:

This is a supplemental report on Tuesday’s meeting:

• Approximately 17 percent of registered voters in Curry County have already requested their ballots, according to County Clerk Mario Trujillo.

As of Tuesday’s meeting, 1,423 residents had voted early.

• Sheriff Matt Murray told commissioners he has had several meetings with Clovis’ new police Chief Steve Sanders and that Sanders signed a memo of understanding to continue the department’s participation in the 9th Judicial District’s Major Crimes Unit.

• Three county employees have been granted access to Motor Vehicle Department records to verify mobile home ownership for taxation purposes, according to Deputy Treasurer Bernice Baker. Mobile homes, she said, have been traditionally difficult for the treasurer’s office to track because they are easily relocated and MVD had control of registration records.

• Alcohol sales around the state are down, impacting DWI grant money received by counties, however in Curry County distributor sales are up 2.82 percent, helping insure DWI grant money for the area, according to Administrative Services Coordinator Connie Harrison.