Belen officials look to enhance Christopher Road prior to hospital

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A request for proposals was issued by the city of Belen for enhancements to Christopher Road.

City officials say they will make the proposed hospital site east of Christopher Road "a build ready site."

Construction improvements to the two-lane road consist of the addition of a roundabout in front of the proposed hospital site, center medians, sidewalks, landscaping, drainage and road widening. The $800,000 improvements stretch from Belen High School to Camino del Llano.

Improvements to Christopher Road are two fold — to avoid postponing construction of the proposed hospital and to create a safer avenue for school children to travel through, said Steve Tomita, the city's planning and zoning director.

"We wanted to move forward mainly to get bids, get a contractor and get construction done, so road improvements are done prior to the hospital breaking ground," Tomita said.

This move comes after the city issued a request for qualifications to pinpoint a medical provider who is interested in building and operating the proposed hospital.

Upon the deadline for responses, in February, city officials will recommend "the most qualified responder" to the Valencia County Commission, according to a news release.

Mayor Rudy Jaramillo said the joint powers agreement between the city and county, concerning the development and operation of a county hospital, gave Belen "the green light to move forward with a hospital in Belen in September and we took them seriously.

"We are getting the hospital site ready," Jaramillo said in the release.

But before that can be done, the county must verify the results of the Ameris Management Servies LLC financial feasibility study.

This study, released in April, found that a hospital with 28 medical/surgical beds and 12 geriatric psychiatric beds, along with basic medical/surgical, diagnostics and a 24-hour level-one emergency service is "a financially viable endeavor" at the Christopher Road site.

The county must verify if a hospital, no matter the size, would be successful through its own internal evaluation — consisting of commissioners and staff — or by hiring an independent consultant to provide an Independent Feasibility Validation Report to decide if a hospital is "successful and sustainable" at the Belen site.

The road enhancements will limit traffic and the type of traffic on the road. For example, large vehicles and trucks will be encouraged to find an alternative route to and from the school, such as Belen Consolidated School buses, Tomita said.

State legislative funding will cover 80 percent of the project's cost with a 20 percent match from the city, Tomita said.

Construction on Christopher Road is scheduled to begin March 2013, and completed by June 2013.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.