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Cracks in bidding process for Las Cruces projects



The conversion of unused tennis courts at Apodaca Park to new pickleball courts that get played on every day is an example of city leaders listening to residents and making better use of existing facilities.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that less than nine months after the Oct. 1 ribbon-cutting ceremony last year, cracks have developed running east to west along both ends of the court. Smaller cracks have started to spiderweb throughout the playing surface.

New fencing was installed on three of the four sides. On the north side, where the old fencing remains, the latch to the gate is held in place by a rusty nail that has been bent to serve the purpose. Ironically, it is the only gate that is compliant with federal ADA regulations, but there is no sidewalk leading to it.

All of the work was done without required permits and inspections, former Parks and Recreation Advisory Board member Frank Carril explained recently on KTAL-LP community radio.

“This project was never permitted, and it never spawned any inspections,” Carril said.

That was because the contractor told the state that the project only included rehabilitation of the existing pad and construction of a new sidewalk, which would not require a permit, Carril said. In fact, the job expanded the size of the pad by eight feet on both the west and east sides and by four feet on the south side, which is why new fencing was required on those three sides.

“Over 65 cubic yards of concrete, steel, rebar and everything else, and then the fence being placed upon that with footings and foundations,” Carril said. “As of today, that job has never been permitted in the city and it has never been permitted in the (state).”

City officials are also relying on the excuse that the project was renovation of an existing facility for the decision to ignore ADA requirements, making the courts inaccessible to players in wheelchairs. I don’t know which side is legally right, but it’s pretty clear which side is morally right.

The growth of pickleball is due in large part to the fact that the sport can be played by those with limited mobility. USA Pickleball has specific rules for players in wheelchairs, and tournaments are held throughout the country.

Local pickleball players, who had been setting up their own nets at the Apodaca Park tennis courts for years, were thrilled when the new courts were opened last October. But that doesn’t mean they should be satisfied with shoddy work.

Carril, who had 20 years of contracting experience before his retirement, said the city needs to change from a request for proposal process, in which the city sets the price and leaves the details to the contractor, to a request for bid process, which gives the city more control and is more resistant to corruption.

City officials are in the process of putting together a package of projects for the upcoming general obligation bond election in November. I’ve always voted for the GO bond in the past because I believe we need to continue investing in our community.

But this year I’ve got some new questions about what process will be used to select the contractors and how we ensure that everything is properly permitted and inspected.

Walter Rubel can be reached at waltrubel@gmail.com