Governor pledges support of $4.2 million for Tucumcari projects

Gov. Bill Richardson said he would work for and support $4.2 million from capital outlay funds for Tucumcari’s Main Street program and Mesalands Community College in the upcoming legislative session.

Richardson voiced his support for the projects Thursday during a visit to Tucumcari at a rally for the groundbreaking of a new Tucumcari High School. Members of the community and Tucumcari High School students attended the event.

Tucumcari was one of six stops on a two-day tour of the state to discuss the upcoming legisaltive session.

“A school is a way that a small community stays together,” Richardson said.

“I’m proud of the investment the state made in this project. We took a strong stand, and I said when it comes to education, it’s an investment in the future. We will not in New Mexico cut education, and we will increase our spending and committment to education.”

Tucumcari has received $7 milllion from the state for the $23 million project, Richardson said.

The construction start-up “ could not have happened so rapdily without the committment of this community which fought hard for a new shcool and voted to match state funds. You’re putting dollars here, too. I want to commmend you for your hard work.”

Richardson said he would seek $1.2 million at the upcoming legislative session for Mesland’s residence hall and wind turbine education program.

“I’m surprised and pleased,” said Phillip Barry, college president, following the governor’s presentation.

Barry said the funding, if designated, could assist the college in offsetting a $600,000 shortfall in its capital investment plan for its wind turbine.
Richardson also said he would seek $3 million from the capital outlay funds for the Tucumcari Main Street program to redevelop the downtown area.

“The Tucumcari downtown is one of the most historic in New Mexico,” Richardson said and it should be preserved and protected for future generations.

President of the Tucumcari Main Street program, Nancy English, said the funds would help Main Street advance its program. While renovation is currently under way on the train depot, that area needs landscaping, lighting and other design features that will draw people to the area.
“We want to draw people, and businesses to downtown,” she said.

The Princes Theatre is also one of Main Street’s concerns. “It’s in pretty bad shape,” English said. “And the funds would help get us started on that project.”

A proposal was made to the state’s racing commission for a $60 million race track and casino to be built in Tucumcari. In August 2007 the commission selected Raton.

“I know your community was disappointed when the racing commission decided on Raton for the racino (race track and casino),” Richardson said.

The Legislative session opens on Jan. 20 and the governor said he would also focus on education and safety initiatives during the 60-day session.

Richardson said the state needs to invest more money in education reform, especially in rural communities.

He said that he supports a change in the school funding formula, but would like to put it before the voters.

A proposed change would mean more money for schools, but currently there is a deficit in the budget, Richardson said.

In the area of public safety, reforms include expanding DWI offenses to include drugs, making gang recruitment illegal and allowing law enforcement officers to testify in license revocation hearings by telephone.

Gang recruitment of adults would be a fourth-degree felony and recruitment of children would be a third degree felony, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

The initiative would also enhance sentences of gang-related crimes to up to eight years.

Richardson said he also wants improved laws against stalking and wants to criminalize destruction of joint properties because of domestic violence.

Freedom New Mexico staff writer Gabriel Monte contributed to this report.