Lujan to establish office in Tucumcari

By Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan said Friday he will be setting up an office in Tucumcari as soon as he can.

The Tucumcari office will be one of several in the state, and will have a full-time staffer who will also be serving other eastern New Mexico communities, Lujan said.

The office is to be located in the Chamber of the Commerce building, said interim Tucumcari City Manager Mike Cherry.

“To have his office here will be a benefit to the constituents and to the city,” Cherry said. “I think it’ll be a big plus for the city.”

Lujan was in Tucumcari on Friday to visit with local government officials and tour Mesalands Community wind technology program. Lujan also discussed the stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, that President Barack Obama signed into effect on Feb. 17.

Mesalands’ wind technology program is a model for renewable energy and preparing people for jobs in the wind industry, Lujan said. And he praised the speed and efficiency with which the program was conceived and launched.

In a meeting with college officials Lujan also talked about the importance of developing coalitions with utilities and electrical transmission grid consortiums to ensure that eastern New Mexico and Quay County are included in plans for transmission lines on the state’s eastern side.
Lujan expressed a willingness and commitment to work with community and landowner co-ops to assure eastern New Mexico is included in plans for wind energy development and transmission line corridors.

Statewide, Lujan said a special state legislative session will be convened, following the current session, to review recovery and reinvestment dollars that are expected to flow into New Mexico.

“Through that mechanism we hope dollars will make it to each of communities,” Lujan said.

Dollars have been set aside to provide for education, infrastructure and renewable energy, and those funds will be leveraged as much possible to extend their effect, he said. And, a number of competitive grants will be available.

Cherry said the stimulus package will provide for “shovel ready” projects, those that have the engineering phases complete. The city has planned wastewater treatment improvements, water and roads that have some engineering phases completed and could qualify for the recovery and reinvestment funds, Cherry said.

There also is money to continue unemployment benefits and for those who have been displaced because of the economy to go to college, Lujan said.

The stimulus package is far-reaching and will provide assistance to help those who are having trouble meeting their mortgage payments, Lujan said.

The plan, however, will be looked at over the coming months by Congress.

“I think we all agree it’s not a perfect piece of legislation but doing nothing was not the answer,” Lujan said.

The rollout of the recovery and investment dollars can be seen at recovery.gov.