With some hesitation and one nay vote, Lincoln County commissioners agreed Tuesday to advertise for proposals to build a physicians professional building on the campus of the county-owned Lincoln County Medical Center in Ruidoso.
During the special meeting in Carrizozo, Commissioner Kathryn Minter cast the lone negative vote after her request was ignored to postpone action until the commission's regular meeting next week. She wanted time to review the 100-page document and to allow an absent Commissioner Mark Doth to attend and voice his opinions. Her concerns were tied to several unsettled issues and uncompleted agreements outlined by County Attorney Alan Morel.
"I think we will regret this," she said. "I would like to table it for just one week until (Doth) is here and we can discuss it. I always appreciate his (analysis). The people bidding will look at all the things up in the air. It would be cleaner than canceling (the project) later. I have a real concern for the rush. This is a huge project (at $4.5 million), the biggest since the detention center. Maybe we should break ground in the spring. Presbyterian (HealthCare Services, which leases the county hospital and will be the building tenant) knows we are building and the money is in a fund for the county. With the holiday season and all the other things that have to be done, let's slow down and let it take its normal path. Let's table it until next week until we all can actually read the (request for proposals)."
County Attorney Alan Morel said on the front page of the bid document, it states the project is contingent on obtaining a required setback variance from Ruidoso. "We'll know on Nov. 6, and if not, it wouldn't place the county in jeopardy. We won't award until Nov. 13, and if we don't have everything, we will terminate and start over at a later date. That's an option. I don't have control of those things."
Chairman Jackie Powell pointed out that while the situation is difficult, the contract is contingent on the items falling into place, and, "We can back out at any time and we can start from scratch again."
Commissioner Eileen Sedillo didn't like the rush, saying Presbyterian is doing the pushing and the village of Ruidoso also is going to be in a crunch. "I'm concern about being rushed and making mistakes."
Why the rush
Morel said the rush is tied to weather and funding. To keep the cost in line, hospital officials would like to pour the footings before temperatures drop too low and want to commit the dollars in Presbyterian's budget put aside for fixtures and furnishings in the building.
Giving background, Morel explained that some issues arose when the county asked to vacate El Paso Road, but village officials objected to closing it based on the impact to business owners. A compromise was reached whereby the village will own a 40-foot right of way and the county will be granted the right of way along each side of the road, which it needs for part of the building. Even with that land, a slight setback variance will be required from the village, he said. The village owns the utilities and is responsible for the road. Decisions about ensuring the safety of people crossing the road were put off until later.
"We still need three pieces of property deeded to us from the village before we can do anything and (a piece of property owned by a doctor) hasn't been purchased and is required to make the plan work, he said. The price for the land is estimated at $100,000. Someone has to purchase the building and tear it down so the taxpayers don't have to eat buying a building just to tear it down," the attorney said.
He spent Monday trying to work out an agreement on conditions needed for the variance to be approved.
"It almost was a deal killer," Morel said. "I estimated the cost from half a million to three quarters of a million dollars." Village officials initially wanted the county to install an eight-inch water line and new taps for every unit along the road, as well as new road curbs and gutters and a raised ramp with lights. He contended those were issues yet to be settled among stakeholders.
"At the end of the day, we got them to agree to withdraw the water line, which was going to be incredibly expensive," to see what is needed in the future. We are going to do the sidewalks, curb and gutter on the building side, which already was in the budget," as well as striping El Paso Street, a raised crosswalks and landscaping. The cost estimate for the work is about $100,000, which will have to be worked into the project budget.
But the major problem is the incredibly short timeline, he said. Issuing the bid requests to receiving responses occur within 18 days.
"I think there are contractors out there who knew this project was coming and we can get multiple bids." Morel said. Proposals are due Oct. 30, with a tentative notice of award by Nov. 13. Construction should take about one year and be finished by December 2013, he said.
"I'd rather let Ruidoso do it the right way," Minter said. "I didn't realized we actually needed the extra space for our building. The village bent over backwards to give us that space. I feel very bad about the whole time frame and rushing everything. When we break ground, we're going to run into stuff you didn't know was there."
Powell said the county and village are in the project together and Ruidoso will "benefit greatly" from the building.