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Posted: Friday, September 28, 2012 12:00 am

La Mesa Mall Purchase

Dear Editor:

We are a group of concerned citizens of Cibola County.

Our county commissioners recently voted to spend $1.6 million of county surplus funds, to purchase the stressed La Mesa Mall in Grants. This transaction has several issues of concern that you should be made aware of, and probably will want answers to.

The first issue of concern is the conflict of interest for a commissioner to represent a governing body, for which he is an elected official, as a real estate broker.

This commissioner obviously made a substantial real estate commission just by abstaining from a vote?

This commissioner was obviously involved in showing the property to the county representatives, and was surely involved in non-public meetings with commissioners and county manager discussing an offer/ and purchase price (which determines the amount of commission paid), and whether to vote on it.

Abstaining from the public meeting vote did not erase his prior or post involvement in the transaction.

This commissioner was voted in by the constituents of his district, to represent them, show up and vote on county business for their benefit, not to abstain from the vote for his financial benefit.

This purchase is obviously in this commissioner's district, and people in that district were not represented. This commissioner, as does the others, receives a fair salary to be a commissioner, but a salary and a commission?

This is like hiring a construction company that is owned by one of the commissioners, to remodel or upgrade this shopping center, without going out for bids.

Unbelievably poor business ethics, and [poor] representation of voters.

The second issue regarding this purchase is the $1,600,000 price tag the commissioners agreed to pay for Manager Vinson's so called "stressed property.”

This property has been mostly vacant and listed for sale by many different real estate companies for many years. Up to this point, no potential purchasers have stepped up, or been knocking down the realtor's doors to purchase this property at this or any price.

Does the commission or Manager Vinson have a current appraisal of the property that has been already purchased?

At the minimum, has the county's commissioner/real estate agent provided a market analysis of similar properties sold, in other similar-sized communities?

The $14-per-square-foot purchase price may be unheard of according to Vinson, but what if the property could've been purchased for $7 - $10-per-square-foot?

The funds used may be outright cash, and no borrowing, according to Chairman [Eddie] Michael, but that money isn't free. It is still taxpayers’ money.

Michael also states, "We will get an eight - ten percent return on the Smith's lease agreement alone, and the purchase makes sense."

Was the loss of property tax revenue from taking this property off the tax rolls included in that rate of return calculation?

The third issue is: what due diligence did the commission/manager/realtor have performed prior to the purchase?

We already mentioned an appraisal.

How about any phase of environmental inspections.

How a about an engineering consultation of the feasibility, and all estimated costs to convert, remodel and upgrade this property to the county's planned use?

Have any preliminary plans been drawn to reflect these changes?

How about inspections of existing electrical, plumbing, roof, and HVAC systems?

We're talking $1.6 million to start with, but what is the final price tag gonna be, and where will these funds come from?

The fourth issue is why remove the county complex from the convenient, and attractive downtown location?

Chairman Michael's quote, "We do not want to take away from downtown."

That is exactly what is going to happen.

This community was built around Route 66.

We have the county, courts, city hall, chamber of commerce, post office, parks and River Walk, all in walking distance of each other. The current complex is old, but a very attractive and an historic property.

If one-half to three-quarters of the $1.6 million could have been spent upgrading/expanding the current courthouse, we'd by far have the nicest county complex of any county this size and population.

They say the facility will be renovated for a possible convention center?

It already serves that purpose, and has been very sufficient for that use and everything else.

The property is ok to be renovated, and used as a convention and conference center, but not ok to be expanded and renovated for it's current use?

The last issue, and most puzzling is why did County Manager Scott Vinson say he wanted to close the deal in a week? He mentions, so the county could receive September's rent from Smiths?

Was a month or two of Smith's rent worth the inherent risk of avoiding normal and necessary due diligence?

A typical residential transaction usually takes 30-45 days to close after appraisals, inspections, surveys and title work.

A $1.6 million commercial purchase should easily take a few months to close, If proper due diligence is performed.

A special meeting, unanimous vote and closed deal involving $1.6 million dollars of taxpayer's money in a week?

We are talking about $1.6 million of Cibola County citizens’ taxpayer's money, and a lot of yet to be determined costs to renovate and maintain the old and new property.

We think the issues of concern are very legitimate and deserve some explanation.

We appreciate your time and consideration to this matter. We look forward to a response to these concerns from the commission and manager. A similar letter was emailed to the commission chairman, and other commissioners on Aug. 30, 2012, and not one member has responded.

Concerned Cibola

County Citizens

Patrick Tucker and several others

El Malpais

25th Anniversary

Dear Editor:

The National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management want to thank the Cibola Beacon for partnering with our agencies to commemorate the 25th anniversary of El Malpais National Monument and National Conservation Area.

When we approached you early this year about incorporating some articles on the history of their designation by Congress in 1987, you enthusiastically agreed. During the course of the spring, the idea expanded and the result, released a few weeks ago, is a 40-page Visitor Guide that contains articles by agency staff, Beacon reporters, and even the Historic Preservation Director for the Pueblo of Acoma. Many area businesses stepped up to sponsor this expanded guide as well, showing that a large sector of our community recognizes the value of our public lands.

Many of us were surprised and delighted to pick up Tuesday's paper this week - the Cibola Living section was devoted to the 25th anniversary of the monument and conservation area, with reprints of several visitor guide articles and beautiful photographs.

Anyone who saw the Sept. 25 Beacon received a reminder of how rich our area is in nationally significant natural and cultural landscapes. For local readers who missed getting this edition of the paper, and for all community members who would like a copy of the El Malpais: 1987-2012 Visitor Guide, stop by the Beacon, the Northwest New Mexico Visitor Center or the Grants/Cibola County Chamber of Commerce/Mining Museum to pick one up.

Again, thanks to the Beacon for providing a "birthday party in print," one that invites the local communities and beyond to enjoy the spectacular and mysterious "badlands" of El Malpais, lands that belong to all of us as

Americans.

This is a birthday party all of us can enjoy, all year long!

Kayci Cook Collins, Superintendent

El Malpais National Monument and Ken Jones, Supervisory Park Ranger

El Malpais National Conservation Area

Changing

School Policies

Dear Editor:

In regard to the police report dated Sept. 5, 2012, in the Grants Beacon on Tuesday, Sept. 18:

A student at Grants High School was released to his mother for possession of a weapon (knife) and tobacco.

Ten years ago, 2002, my son at Grants High School was charged with a fourth degree felony, carrying a deadly weapon, which was a leatherman tool.

Thanks to Mr. Atencio, who turned him into the Grants Police Department, he was arrested, booked into GPD, with possession of a deadly weapon. He was suspended from school for ten days, and my son had to live with this felony charge on his record until he was 21 years old.

He was not released to his mother.

How things have changed at Grants High School.

LouAnn Lopez

Grants

Searching for

a Superintendent

Dear Editor:

For the sake of the taxpayers of the Grants/Cibola County School District, our school board should take heed of the service given to them by board member Dion Sandoval.

He currently holds the distinction of serving as New Mexico School Board Association president.

Sandoval is right on target in asserting “NMSBA costs are minimal” for helping boards search for a new superintendent.

One thing is a logical certainty.

We do not need to hire an out-of-state firm to help organize a retreat for the superintendent search committee.

Bob Murdoch

Cibola County

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