County to start up crusher soon

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By David Giuliani

San Miguel County could open its facility to make road materials in as soon as two months — a project officials hope will make it easier for the county to improve more roads.

The county plans to have the crusher operation on its land in the wood business park on Las Vegas’ north side. It is the same site as the old Medite of New Mexico fiberboard factory, which closed years ago.

Also on the site, the county plans to construct a building for its public works department, but that part of the project has been delayed because of a snag in the bidding process.

At this week’s County Commission meeting, Public Works Supervisor Harold Garcia reported that the county has purchased the crusher and now is seeking state permits to open the facility. The state has told the county that its air-quality permit application is sufficient to meet standards, he said.

Some nearby residents have expressed concern about the dust from a crusher facility, but county officials said they are creating a manual as a way to explain to the public about how it will operate the crusher, including such things as the mitigation of dust. The county, which is seeking a well permit for the site, plans to spread water around the area to reduce the amount of dust.

The county aims to get that manual finished before public hearings are held in connection with the crusher, County Manager Les Montoya said.

“The manual will give the answers,” he said. “We want to make sure the crusher benefits the county and the environment.”

Because the crusher is in the extra-territorial zone — a buffer area around city limits — the county is working with the city to get an ETZ permit as well, Garcia said.

A few years ago, County Commission Chairman David Salazar complained that the county was “spinning its wheels” with road projects, making only small dents in the work that needed to be done. He suggested that officials look into the idea of a crusher.

Since then, the county has been working toward that goal. The crusher operation will be paid for by a voter-passed sales tax designed to help with rural road improvements.

While the county is making progress with the crusher, it has suffered a setback with the public works building, a complex that will eventually include a solid waste transfer station with a railroad spur that will allow for rail transport of trash to the landfill near Wagon Mound.

The county recently received six bids for the project, but the County Commission decided this week to reject them all. That was after the county’s architectural firm found that the low bidder, Albuquerque-based Southwest CM, listed a subcontractor that wasn’t properly registered with the state.

Also, the third lowest bidder, Franken Construction of Las Vegas, filed a formal protest, questioning some of the companies on Southwest’s subcontractor list.

Southwest bid at $1.2 million was followed by SRS Construction at $1.3 million. Franken came in only $2,000 higher than SRS.

County officials said it was in the taxpayers’ best interest for the county to throw out all the bids and go out to bid again.

Chairman Salazar said he feared that if the county went out for bids again, it wouldn’t get as good prices the second time around, saying that’s happened before.

But County Attorney Jesus Lopez said that if the county didn’t reject all bids, it could have either been vulnerable to litigation from either Franken or Southwest. He said the county wanted to take action based on “what would least delay the project.”

Montoya added that with the sagging economy, the prices may well be just as good in the second go-around. He noted that the county has been getting bids from companies as far away as Alamogordo.

The county plans to advertise the project in area newspapers soon.