By Isabella Alves
The Sandoval County Commission last week approved more than $1 million in spending on the county’s detention center as part of the final phases of what’s become a $6.2 million renovation.
The majority of the facility’s facelift – which included a plumbing and air conditioning overhaul, new cell doors, a camera system and new entrance – was completed a year ago at a cost of more than $5 million.
This go-round, the commission approved a $149,000 expenditure for fencing around the jail’s perimeter and staff parking area, and $946,000 for 30 new showers, 125 sink valves and 125 toilet valves in the west pods of the jail.
The fence, which will be built by American Fence Company, was approved over the objection of Commissioner Jay Block, who would have preferred the contract go out for bid. Instead, American Fence Company was selected by staff from the state’s procurement website.
County Manager Wayne Johnson told Block the state’s procurement website was a common way to award contracts to businesses. But Block said he would have liked to have been able to consider a local small business if one was interested in the job.
The new fence would replace the final portion of the original fence around the perimeter and extend into the staff parking lot, as a matter of safety as they enter and exit the jail, city staff said.
Money for the new bathroom fixtures is coming from a $1.4 million state appropriation and will be fulfilled by B&D industries Inc. With the completion of these new bathroom showers and valves, almost every shower in the jail will be completed.
Replacing the existing valves is part of the county’s stewardship efforts to conserve water. With the new valves already being on two-thirds of the jail's toilets, the county has saved money, lowering its monthly water bill from about $24,000 to $3,000, according to county staff. They anticipate even more savings with the installation of the new valves.
Before its renovation, the detention center suffered major problems with some cell doors not locking and faulty security cameras. These issues eventually led to three inmates being able to escape in 2017, according to news reports.
Sandoval Country originally appropriated $5.1 million to the jail’s remodel. With these finishing touches, the renovation will essentially be completed, according to staff. The funding for the valves and showers will come from the state’s appropriation and is separate from the original appropriation from the county.
Also during last week’s meeting, the commission recognized February is Black History month in Sandoval County with a proclamation that Commissioner Joshua Jones presented to Bishop David D. Cooper, Regional Bishop in the Full Gospel Bastist Church Fellowship and a board member of the state’s African American Chamber of Commerce.
“It is time to recognize the struggles for freedom and equality that African Americans have endured,” Jones read from the proclamation. “It deepens our understanding of our nation’s full history, and this observance affords each of us a unique opportunity to become more knowledgeable about Black heritage and to honor many Black leaders who have contributed to the progress of our nation,”
Jones, who is Black, emphasized the importance of honoring Black Americans who are working in the present, not just the past.
One, he said, is state Sen. Harold Pope, D-Albuquerque, who is the first Black to be elected to the New Mexico state Senate. Another is Carissa Coldbreath, who is the first Black to be elected to the Rio Rancho City Council, Jones said.
Black history, like all histories, is necessary, Cooper said while accepting the proclamation.
These histories bring a critical perspective to both the past and the present, and understand how history has shaped society, he said.
Black History Month first started out as a week in February– the week both Frederick Douglas and President Abraham Lincoln were born – to honor Black Americans history in this nation, Cooper said.
He encouraged people to read up on Black history “because if you ask me about the European contribution, I can give you an answer.”
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