Municipal league seeks infrastructure solutions

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico

CLOVIS — Whether it’s the Hull Street overpass, the Portales
wastewater plant or a patch of Tucumcari Boulevard, chances are
something needs replacing in a New Mexico community.

Infrastructure needs bond cities large and small, and local
dignitaries are taking advantage of the New Mexico Municipal League
conference to seek solutions.

Held at the Clovis Civic Center and Clovis Community College, the
conference brought approximately 700 municipal employees through Friday
for votes on state policy and sessions to find out how to address city
and county needs better.

A theme that shows up year in and year out, NMML Communications Coordinator Roger Makin said, is infrastructure.

“It’s a constant problem,” Makin said. “There are X amount of
dollars that can go around, and they’re all fighting for those same
dollars.”

The goal, Tucumcari City Commissioner Jim Lafferty said, is self-sufficiency.

“Tucumcari’s ongoing problem is that we’re a handout town. When we
need to fix a street we go to Santa Fe,” Laffery said. “Our goal should
be to do our own (funding) and debt service so if (a road) lasts 20
years we can plan to replace it without having to go to Santa Fe.”

Tucumcari does have one advantage in that one of its biggest
streets, Tucumcari Boulevard, is part of Route 66 and qualifies for
many types of funding. But those funds don’t help the roads in front of
his or his neighbors’ homes, and Santa Fe can only do so much to help.

“Everybody does the same thing,” Lafferty said. “We’re all after
state grants and state money, and (the state) tells us it’s going to
dry up.”

When grants or funds aren’t available, cities try to find ways to
extend the lives of infrastructure. Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield, in
her first conference as mayor, said she’s discovered Clovis isn’t the
only city with problems such the Hull Street overpass, which has been
closed indefinitely since the end of July for safety reasons.

“What’s really (helpful) is the networking to find out how other
towns have taken care of some of their problems,” said Brumfield, who
is traveling to Santa Fe at the conference’s conclusion to ask Gov.
Bill Richardson for funds to fix the overpass. “Me being as new as I
am, I’m just enjoying seeing how other people do it.”

The league has sessions on how to seek funds under a new unified
application process. Portales City Manager Debi Lee said Portales was
the first to take advantage, since she could go back to her office and
apply online.

Being near the conference also helped Lee and others get New Mexico
Environment Department officials to tour the city’s wastewater plant,
which will need replacing soon.

“A lot of cities are working with the same problems we are with aged
infrastructure,” Lee said, “specifically water and wastewater.”

Dignitaries from smaller cities, meanwhile, bounce ideas off of each other on how to get by on little or no gross receipts.

“No gas station, no general stores,” longtime Grady Mayor Wesley Shafer joked. “Other than that, everything’s great.”