Jail bonds hit snag

By William Thompson

County commissioners tabled a vote on an ordinance Tuesday that would allow for the issue of a 20-year gross receipts tax revenue bond for a projected $3.3 million addition to the Roosevelt County Detention Center. County commissioners will meet again today at 4 p.m. to vote on the bond.

The bond was scheduled for a vote at Tuesday’s meeting of county commissioners, but county administrator Charlene Hardin said the county needed a little more time as it was awaiting final word from attorneys and an insurance underwriter from Ambac, a New York-based insurance company.

Hardin told commissioners at yesterday’s meeting that she learned that an initial insurance quote for the bond was about $20,000 higher than a quote from a second underwriter, and an agreement with the second underwriter needed a little more time to be finalized.

She said the insurance underwriter had been concerned about the possible economic impact on Roosevelt County should Cannon Air Force Base shut down in 2009.

“Kevin Powers (of RBC Capital Markets) did some research along with Erin Hardin (an economist at New Mexico State University) and Hanson Scott, and they were able to convince the underwriter that Cannon closing would not have as big of an impact on Roosevelt County,” Hardin said. “The new insurance quote (if approved) would save the county about $20,000.”

Hardin said attorneys needed time yesterday to review the final version of the ordinance with its new insurance quote, and she said the attorneys would likely give their approval in advance of today’s meeting.

If the ordinance is approved by commissioners, the county will issue a bond at a cost to the county of $300,000 per year that will help pay for a new unit to be constructed at the detention center, which should help overcrowding. The center’s administrator, Jesse Luera said the new unit will allow the center to house 72 inmates in the old unit and 72 inmates in the new unit.

The inmate population has risen to as high as 80 or more in recent months. Tuesday, the inmate population stood at 68, according to Luera.

Hardin said insurance for the 20-year bond would help the bond be more marketable.

• In other news from the meeting of county commissioners, Capt. Rick Short of the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Department said the department will be welcoming back Deputy Darren Hooker who recently returned from military duty in Iraq. Short said Hooker will return to his law enforcement duties April 1. Also, Short said Scott Schumpert was recently hired from the Portales Police Department. Short said the department expects to interview two new deputy applicants soon.