City and Ute Lake Ranch need to draw up new water agreement

Chelle Delaney

A 2005 lease agreement for water between the city of Tucumcari and the developers of the Ute Lake Ranch is not recognized by state’s Interstate Stream Commission, said city manager John Sutherland at Thursday’s city commission meeting.

Thus, the city and ULR will have to meet and make another agreement, Sutherland said.

In 2005 the city leased water it owns from Ute Lake to the ULR for its golf course residential development.

The ISC has said “that the agreement between Ute Lake Ranch and the city is not valid,” Sutherland said in his manager’s report.

The ISC does not recognize the lease of the city’s water, but wants the water to be sold to ULR in a buyer-seller relationship such as the ones that the city has with the Liberty Water System and the R.A.D. Water System, Sutherland said.

Ute Lake notified the city through its attorney that it wanted to amend to lease agreement to a buyer-seller agreement and keep, in large part, the same terms and conditions made in the 2005 agreement, Sutherland said.

After a review of ULR’s proposed amendment, the city’s attorney stated in a letter: “I have grave concerns that the original agreement entered into by the city with ULR violates the New Mexico Anti-Donation Clause … (because) the city would be transferring water it owns to the ULR, at cost.”

The city’s attorney also stated that the going rate of $1.86 per 1,000 gallons being paid by Liberty and R.A.D. compared to the proposed $1.53 per 1,000 gallons that would be charged to ULR, could subject the city to claims of “disparate treatment.”

In comparison, a resident of Tucumcari pays $2.56 per 1,000 gallons of water, according to the city’s water rates.

Commissioner Jim Lafferty said he did not believe that the agreement with ULR and the city was “just a management issue,” and asked that he and other commissioners be better informed on the discussions about the agreement.

“It may turn into a controversial issue,” Lafferty said.

In other business before the city:
• The WHPacific firm is expected to begin environmental testing on Monday at the Sands-Dorsey Building. The firm’s preliminary report is expected on July 28, Sutherland said. This tests are to be followed by geotechnical investigations to be performed in three to four weeks.

• A contract was approved for the removal of hazardous materials from the train station. This is the first of several steps in renovating the depot, Doug Powers, director of the city’s Community Development, told the commission.

Work on the depot is expected to start by the end of July, Powers said.
The city has received a $400,000 grant to renovate the depot.

• A monthly payment increase of $100 to $500 per month to physician George Evetts was approved. Evetts assists the city’s Emergency Medical Services personnel in their EMT license programs and provides other medical services.

• Mayor Antonio Apodaca asked the commissioners to think about a four-day work week because of rising energy costs.