Road repairs top roundtable discussion

By Ryn Gargulinski: Quay County Sun

Tucumcari community, business and education leaders got their voices heard and their ideas carried off to lobbyists in Washington, D.C., when the Association of Commerce and Industry of New Mexico headed a recent roundtable luncheon at the Holiday Inn.

With two elected officials and nearly 30 Tucumcari advocates on hand, topics ranged in scope from schools to pot holes, from water rights to swimming pools.

State Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis, and State Rep. Brian Moore, R-Clayton, expressed a major concern — a state reserve fund of $800 million this year.

“We are looking for the appropriate use of the windfall of $800 million,” Harden said. Moore added if the funds are not used by the end of the year, a portion of them fall into a tax stabilization reserve fund and become harder to access for other uses.

Although the legislators proposed enacting a one-time tax refund for state citizens, those attending the roundtable had other ideas; they suggested using the funds for something with more longevity and positively pertinent to rural areas.

Highways were among items that topped the list during the Aug. 16 event, namely the disrepair of Interstate 40 and state highways 40 and 54. University of New Mexico’s Senior Public Affairs Director Steve Carr, who drove in from Albuquerque to attend the roundtable, said he had a first-hand experience of the state of I-40 on his drive back.
“Throughout many parts (of the highway) I was driving down the center of the road. I wasn’t the only one doing so either,” Carr said.

In addition to Carr, several education representatives were on hand, including Tucumcari schools Superintendent William Reents and Mesalands Community College Public Relations Director John Yearout.

Education advocates agreed the teachers’ retirement fund, which Moore said falls into the state’s jurisdiction and has a $3 billion deficit, would be a good place to start. Building new facilities and updating equipment for outdated local schools was another item on the agenda.

“We are wasting millions of dollars trying to operate facilities that are not meant to operate in the modern world,” said attendee Will Cantrell, senior vice president of Quay County’s First National Bank of New Mexico.

The topic of economic development also was a focus, with discussions on the proposed wind research facility for Mesalands, building a race track and attracting more trade and businesses by upgrading and expanding highways surrounding Tucumcari, which could lead to more people just passing through — or sticking around.

Attendees also topped their priority list with water, energy and agricultural issues.

“Rural is the key,” Cantrell said.

Suggestions also included repairing the city’s swimming pool and recreational facilities as well as more programs for senior citizens.

“You get more votes from seniors than from any other group in Tucumcari,” said attendee Fern George.