Bids to go out for county jail expansion again

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On advice of the Valencia County manager, and some newly found funds, the county commissioners agreed to put the jail expansion project back out to bid once again.

The project has languished for nearly two years, thanks to various disputes with contractors and procurement protests.

Because of those delays, construction costs have increased, Valencia County Manager Bruce Swingle told the commissioners in July.

Because of those increases, the project was downsized before it went out to bid earlier this year.

"We took out a lot of important electrical configurations we would have to basically retrofit over time," Swingle said. "We have the new monies we found in the indigent fund to move into the general fund. I think we have the funding to do it right the first time. I'm not comfortable with phasing in electric. We did that with the judicial complex and it's been nothing but trouble."

Swingle recommended going back out to bid, with the project's original specifications, and canceling all existing bids.

The commissioners agreed the project needed to be done start to finish, and directed staff to put the bid back out.

The funding to complete the jail expansion project was found in the indigent fund. Since 2005, part of a local gross receipts tax had been mistakenly funneled into that fund instead of the general fund.

Valencia County Finance Director Nick Telles said when the county began doing an analysis of the impact of Rio Communities' potential incorporation to county GRTs, they found the recurring miscalculation.

Telles said his department recalculated every month going back to July 2005 and found that nearly $1.2 million had been put into the indigent fund, rather than the general.

"There were four GRTs all enacted back in 2005. When the state distributed them, they were put in three accounts instead of four," Telles said.

The silver lining to all this is there is an additional $1.2 million in the county's general fund. However the sheriff's department has been using a portion of the incorrectly deposited funds for recurring expenses, Telles said.

"We suggest that the commission, once the budget adjustment resolutions are made, continue the funding of the sheriff's department through a general fund transfer," he said.

Ultimately there will be no harm to the sheriff's department budget so long as the commission authorizes that transfer, Telles said.

"The 1/16th is dedicated for the general fund so, with the adjustment, instead of overstating three accounts, the funds will go to the general fund and then can be transferred back to that department," he said.

Commissioner Alicia Aguilar said she wanted to see a complete financial report, saying there are many projects the county needs to fund.

"I would like to proceed with caution," Aguilar said. "I don't want to go backwards."

With the distribution corrected, the GRT will result in about $450,000 in recurring revenues for the county general fund.


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