RC council finally picks city hall

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After weeks of going back and forth about where the city of Rio Communities should set up shop, the city council decided where its first city hall will be housed.

A tie-breaking vote Aug. 27 decided to go with a building owned by Ron Gentry, a former county commissioner.

The debate regarding where city hall should be housed has been an issue for the council since the city officially became a municipality in July. Two councilors wanted more space for Judge Heather Benavidez, while two others said the city needed to be practical in what it could afford.

Mayor Mark Gwinn broke the tie by voting to accept an offer by Gentry to use a suite at 303 Damon Place — the same building he had allowed volunteers to use for committee meetings before Rio Communities officially became a city.

Councilors Frank Stasi and Cyndi Sluder voted in favor of accepting the Gentry building; Councilors Mary Lee Serna and Kaylon Northcutt voted against the motion.

Before a motion was made, Stasi informed the council that Valley Improvement Association had rescinded its proposal to the city for a space in its building.

Gentry had also revoked his initial offer when the council couldn't make a decision and for insurance liability reasons.

Stasi told the council that after reading a recent article in the News-Bulletin in which Gentry said he would be willing to offer the building again if the council agreed, he called and asked if the offer was still available.

"(Gentry) said yes," Stasi said. "So, I'd like to make a motion to take this building for $1 per year. It's a good building, and I think it's a perfect spot for us."

Stasi said there was some office equipment, such as a copy machine, already in the building and that there is room for the judge. Making the building ADA-accessible could be done later.

After Sluder seconded Stasi's motion, Serna asked about another space, a former law office, for a city hall that had been discussed during a recent workshop. Stasi said he hadn't heard from the property owner after their initial discussions.

"I haven't received a response from that," Stasi said. "The offices were actually very small, and he was going to talk to his board about it, but he still hasn't gotten back to me."

Northcutt asked what exactly Gentry was offering and if there was a contract to be signed.

Stasi said while there wasn't a contract in place, only a proposal, he did say the building was more than 1,900 square feet, had two half baths, office furniture and some equipment.

Stasi said the city would be responsible for paying the utilities, trash and security system.

He said the New Mexico Municipal League would pay for the building's insurance.

"We'd be responsible for the repairs and maintenance, and any modifications would be our responsibility, with the consent of the owner," he said.

After saying he was still concerned that the building isn't adequate for the judge, Northcutt said he'd rather have a proposed contract in hand to consider before the council acted on accepting the building.

Serna echoed Northcutt, asking if it was just a proposal or a contract. She also asked if the city could cancel the contract if something better came along.


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