Mora County Offices
Hours of Operation:
8:00 am to 12:00 noon
12:30 pm to 4:30 pm
John Olivas, Chairman
Alfonso Griego, Vice Chairman
Paula Garcia, Member
Rumaldo Pino III,
575-643-5475, Cell Phone
Motor Vehicle Office:
Joanne E. Padilla-Salas,
Probate Judge's Office:
now has it's own Website!!!
Mora Valley Residents can now read about
COUNTY NEWS online!!!
Just click on Link Below and visit their site for NEWS.
By Paula Garcia, Chair, Mora County Commission
Op-Ed Submitted to the Las Vegas Daily Optic.
Mora County has the distinction of great natural beauty and a rich cultural heritage. However, it also has long been one of the poorest counties in New Mexico and across the nation. When a major public works project is proposed for Mora County, it is destined to face great challenges because of limited resources in terms of funding and capacity for strong oversight.
The Mora County Complex, a multipurpose facility intended to house county government, judicial facilities, the public health office, and a sheriff's office, is a project with a long a complicated history. As a new commissioner, I realize that there remains much to learn about the project as we consider next steps toward completion. Many people in Mora are understandably frustrated with the slow progress and delayed completion as well as the size and cost of the project. Although it will be challenging, Mora County will have to learn from the past, improve management of the project, and develop creative solutions to move forward.
A review of the timeline reveals that the people of Mora and their elected officials chose to build a new structure because of health and safety concerns with the old structure. To be fair, there was always a significant debate about the better option between renovation of the old structure and building a new one. After county employees were ordered by the State Fire Marshal to evacuate the old structure in 2004, some officials and community leaders quickly mobilized to raise funds for a new structure.
The voters of Mora County very narrowly passed a bond of $2.65 million dollars in November 2004. The sitting County Commission decided to use the funds to renovate the old courthouse and contracted with Ortega, Romero, and Rodriguez Architects to design the remodel of the 17,000 sq. ft. building. After litigation initiated by Mora Taxpayers for Honest Government, the courts ruled that the funds were intended for a new courthouse (Mora Taxpayers for Honest Government v. Mora County, Fourth Judicial District Court Cause No. D-0403-CV 2006 0052).
The new County Commission, taking office on January 2007, paid the architect for work on the old courthouse and proceeded to work on a new facility. They retained the same architect who was then redirected to do a new design for the Mora County Complex. The Commission, with the consultation of their architect, determined that the new structure would be about 42,000 sq. ft. at an estimated cost of about $7.25 million according to a work order dated February 2, 2007. The cost was later updated to $12 million and approved by an amendment to the work order by the Commission on April 24, 2009 (The architects gave a range of $11 to $13.5 million). At the time, only a fraction of the total cost, about $5 million, had been secured. In retrospect, we can only speculate that the Commission believed that more funding would become available somehow.
With approximately $5 million in hand, which was a combination of bond funds and state legislative funds, the Commission decided to proceed with construction of the building �shell.� Franken Construction was awarded the construction contract in November 2008. This phase of construction proceeded until funds were nearly depleted. In 2010, $500,000 in federal stimulus funds was secured for an energy efficiency project to install windows and doors on the facility, a project which is nearly completed.
Now, in February 2011, over six years after the people of Mora County passed a bond to finance a county courthouse, there is a building that is only partially complete. The community, as it has been since 2004, has divergent opinions about the project. The Mora County Complex is the subject of intense scrutiny and criticism to the point of being featured by Channel 4 and Channel 13 in investigative reports. In the reporters� competition for the more sensational story, we can expect extreme statements, including a radical assertion that the current structure should be demolished and rebuilt. This is not productive but it is the result of years of conflict and frustration with the process.
As painful as the controversy is to the people of Mora County, this negative attention is an important step in moving forward. We should embrace this opportunity to focus some sunshine on the project, air it out, reflect on it, and learn from the past. The fact is that Mora County has great need for a multi-purpose facility. Our most urgent need is a safe and healthy working environment for our county employees who are the lifeblood of county government.
It is vital that the County of Mora takes immediate steps toward the completion or partial completion of the Mora County Complex. Some steps have already been taken:
� The Mora County Commission has requested assistance from the State Auditor to advise on the process for an independent special audit. The purpose of this would be to determine whether improvements to the management of the project are needed. The Commission would act on any recommendations to build confidence on the part of state legislators, federal agencies, and the public about the ability of the county to perform good oversight of the use of taxpayer dollars.
� The Mora County Commission held a fact finding session during a recent county commission meeting in which the architectural firm was questioned about the history of the project. Public participation in the meeting was high with a standing-room-only crowd.
� The Commission is actively seeking to hire a County Manager, a position which has been vacant or partially staffed in recent years. A qualified County Manager will dramatically improve the ability of Mora County to perform the appropriate level of project management and oversight needed for the Mora County Complex.
� Other actions under consideration include requesting the General Service Division and the Construction Industries Division to train Mora County officials and management on the procurement code and best practices in working with architects and construction contractors. As stewards of precious taxpayer dollars, it is incumbent on public officials to sharpen their skills when dealing architects and contractors.
To be clear, contrary to innuendo in TV news reports, there are no plans to demolish the current structure and start over. All the actions of the new Mora County Commission have been directed at learning the history and getting advice about how to move the project forward to completion. However, this should be a teachable moment for the people of Mora. Debate over the decisions on a major public works project is very natural and should be expected. It is part of our democracy. Differences of opinion are best resolved through our local government through a process that is transparent and inclusive of diverse opinions.
In the coming weeks, the Mora County Commission will be considering possible options for next steps on the Mora County Complex. It is more important than ever for the people of Mora County to express their hopes and fears about the project.
MORA COUNTY GOVERNMENT NEWS