Veteran asks for help to keep office open

By Kevin Wilson: Quay County Sun

Tucumcari city commissioners on Thursday vowed to write letters in hopes of keeping the local veterans’ affairs open and agreed on the first phase of renovating the local wastewater treatment facility.

Joe Valverde, a veteran of the Korean War and the Vietnam War, told commissioners he was concerned about the scheduled July 1 closing of the veteran’s service office in Tucumcari.

“We need all the help we can get and we need it locally,” Valverde said.

If the office is closed, Valverde said Clovis is the next closest office. Between Quay, DeBaca and Guadalupe counties, the Tucumcari office serves more than 2,100 veterans — 1,319 of them in Quay County.

A trip to Clovis isn’t easy for veterans, Valverde said, because of health problems and rising fuel prices.

“I’m not primarily looking at myself,” Valverde said. “We have other veterans who do need help.”

The representative of the office, Albert Trujillo, said the cut would be made because the office doesn’t serve as many veterans as other offices around the state. However, Trujillo felt having the local office was the best scenario for veterans.

“We have one-on-one contact,” Trujillo said. “They (other offices) have bigger workloads, but I don’t see that as a reason to close our office down.”

Commissioners said they would send letters of support to U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., a member of the House of Representatives’ Veterans Affairs Committee, along with Gov. Bill Richardson and state legislators Clint Harden and Brian K. Moore. Additionally, commissioners said they would do whatever else they could to help prevent the office’s closure.

Commissioners also heard a proposal from HDR Engineering on the future of the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The last major upgrade to the facility was 20 years ago, according to the proposal.

Commissioners were presented two options for upgrade and went with a Model Reference Adaptive System, or MRAS.

The other option was a Biolac.

Each system includes five phases: solids handling and electrical, a plant upgrade, building upgrades, recycling of pipelines and the extension of pipelines.

The difference between the two, HDR Vice President Bill Zimmerman said, was the setup. The Biolac system is a shallow lagoon with a synthetic lining, while the MRAS system involves concrete tanks for wastewater, Zimmerman said.

The MRAS system will cost the city $13.366 million when complete, while the Biolac system would have been $10.205 million, according to HDR estimates. Zimmerman said many New Mexico cities are opting for the MRAS option because the Biolac lagoon system can be compromised by strong winds.

Commissioner Jim Witcher agreed, and said there may be future costs if the lining needs to be replaced.

“It’s $3 million now (in extra costs for the MRAS option),” Witcher said, “but down the road that might be $10 million (in extra expenses).”

The first phase of the project is expected to cost $2.446 million. The city has $300,000 set aside from two years of capital outlay allocations and would receive $2.1 million from the USDA. Zimmerman said construction could begin at the end of 2007 and would take approximately 10 months.

In other business at the meeting:

• Commissioners voted to remove Five Mile Park from the state historical register. Witcher said having the park listed was an honor, but it created numerous regulations that tied the city’s hands on needed renovations.

• City Manager Richard Primrose said the Ute Reservoir Water Contract was renewed until the end of 2008, with no other changes in the contract. The city can still reserve water, Primrose said, for $1.50 per acre foot.

• Approved a request to use Kvols Park for Relay for Life, which runs Friday and next Saturday.

• Mayor Mary Mayfield appointed applicants to vacancies on various advisory boards.