New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson came to Tucumcari Tuesday and a full house at the Tucumcari City Hall was pleased that he did.
It was standing room only at city hall as Richardson greeted old acquaintances, gave a run-down on the recently finished Roundhouse accomplishments and then answered questions from the audience in attendance. In his introductory remarks, Richardson pointed out that Tucumcari had been the recipient of a number of different grants from the state under his leadership. Richardson pointed to the $350,000 for waste water improvement to the city and the $700,000 that went to Mesalands Community College.
The governor also pointed to the $500,000 Community Development Block Grant which was negotiated by Grace Madrid for the improvement of the water treatment plant in Tucumcari. “I made it a priority of my office to make sure a portion of these grants go to the smaller communities of New Mexico and while Tucumcari is not a really small community, it still qualifies. It is in that range,” said Richardson.
Richardson said he also saw to it that Ute Lake received a $200,000 grant. Richardson said he was also excited about the economic development of Tucumcari and Quay County. He pointed to the railroad spur that he felt was very near to being a fact. He said with the rail spur will come development of such things as the Ethanol plant and other processing which community leaders have been discussing. He also pointed to the cheese factory in Tucumcari as being a success story that should be built upon.
“I believe that Tucumcari is on the verge of something big in economic development and tourism,” said Richardson. “I just feel it’s about to happen.” Richardson then took questions from the audience. He fielded questions on the low pay, especially for food services workers in Tucumcari thus putting those individuals at a barely survival level. Richardson said that one of the things that should help is that the tax on grocery food has been removed thus making it more affordable. He also said that there was now a law on the books which gave tax credit to businesses which paid above the state average thus encouraging companies to pay higher wages.
The question of vocational high schools was also raised, and he said it was still an interest of his and he thought that Tucumcari might well be a good location for such an institution as a complement to both Tucumcari High School and Mesalands Community College. He also advanced the concept of a race track as a possibility for economic development for the Quay County area. He said he felt that it could be a very profitable alternative.
“You are the gateway to Texas and Oklahoma,” said Richardson about horse racing and Texas. “Their, the West Texas, market is a huge market. Tucumcari is very well situated for the horse racing industry.” Richardson also said he supported the upcoming Mother Road Rally which is planned for Father’s Day but avoided a commitment to taking part.
When asked about getting on the Democratic ticket in the 2004 presidential race by an Amarillo television reporter, Richardson once again said he was not interested in being vice president. “I’m governor. This is where I want to stay,” said Richardson. Richardson also said he would look into two different topics that were brought up to him; the lack of an alcohol/drug treatment center for the area and the need for widening of U.S. 54 between Tucumcari and the Texas state line. In both cases he said he had not been aware of the problem and thanked the people at the meeting for bringing it to his attention.