Angel Fire’s village government postponed the second July council meeting with the hope council would be approving the contract to begin work on village core area roadways and utilities. Instead, one $12 million bid came in for the project, which has $4.5 million in general obligation bond financing. Additionally, design specs for the project came in with a price tag that totalled about $8 million.
During the Monday (July 30) meeting council members, Mayor Barbara Cottam and Village Manager Rick Tafoya expressed their frustrations to Carl Abrams, Project Manager with HDR, the architectural, engineering, and consulting firm hired to “evaluate street, drainage, and utility conditions within the Village Core Area (CA) and prioritize implementation of improvement projects to be constructed with Village General Obligation (GO) Bond funds.”
Noting the village’s success in getting on solid financial footing over the past several years, Councilor Rogers Lanon asked. “Carl what happened? We’re a small community. It took a lot to get this GO bond passed and now we’re two years down the road and we haven’t done squat.”
“A lot of unknowns,” Abrams replied. “We’re not in control of the bidding climate. It surprised us as well.”
Tafoya said, “You have no control of the bids, we understand that, but you do have control of your estimates.”
“Obviously in the planning stage some assumptions were made,” Abrams replied.
In a September 2016 mail-in election Angel Fire voters approved two separate bond measures totaling $4.5 million: $3 million for municipal street construction/repairs; and $1.5 million for water and wastewater construction/repairs.
It was hoped the initial $4.5 million would kick off a 30-year master project that Village Finance Manager Bret Wier estimated could total $31.5 million. There will be another election in 2020 to renew the program and issue a further $4.5 million with no new increase in taxes. The village hopes the pattern of elections — with voter approval — will continue every 3 years until the project is complete.
During the July 30 meeting, Lanon expressed the fear voters will reject future GO Bond requests, leaving the village with no means to repair failing inftrastructure. “This isn’t a question of if we can get it passed. We have to get it passed. This infrastructure is going to fail. It’s just a matter of when.”
If voters disapprove the next election, once the debt is retired in 12 years, taxes will revert back to pre-bond tax levels. Wier told The Chronicle, “The mil levy will drop each year until the bonds are paid off in May 2031.”
However, if voters continue to approve the bonds every three years, Wier said, the only way the mil levy would increase is “if property taxes go down. If property taxes go up, the mil levy will go down.”
A village white paper promoting the first bond election in 2016 predicted property tax increases ranging from $230 annually for a $200,000 home to $586 for a $500,000 home, and so on.
Perhaps anticipating voter backlash, on Aug. 1 Rick Tafoya posted a letter on the village’s Facebook page, which said, in part, “The only reasonable pathway forward is to re-evaluate the scope of the project, refocusing the bid request and then begin a new request for proposal.… “
Tafoya’s letter attributed to the overly high single bid to a lack of available contractors and the size of project (it’s too large). He predicted work will likely begin by spring 2019, noting, “This could also allow time for more contractors to become available.”
In response to a query from The Chronicle, Tafoya provided the following written response: “Although in HDR’s August 2017 presentation of the Core Area Final study, HDR projected a spring of 2018 date to begin construction, the design phase required more time than anticipated. Hopefully the following timeline clarifies any questions:
- May 31, 2017 HDR presents a Core Area Draft Study
- Aug. 8, 2017 HDR presents a Core Area Final Study
- Nov. 28, 2017 Council approves HDR to proceed with the design
- May 4, 2018 HDR presents Council with preliminary design
- May 10, 2018 Design review meeting between HDR and Village staff
- July 7–21, 2018 HDR advertises the project for bid
- July 26, 2018 Bid opening
After discussing, possible solutions, council sent Abrams on his way with the promise that he and project manager Amos Torres, Water & Sewer Superintendent for the village, would come to the Aug. 14 council meeting with answers.
Abrams did not respond to telephone and email requests for comment by The Chronicle.