Governor seeks project ideas for stimulus funds

Chelle Delaney

By the time Gov. Bill Richardson left Tucumcari on Friday, he had a multi-million-dollar wish list from local government and elected officials.
Richardson was here on a listening tour to hear what projects city and county leaders hoped to receive funding for from the federal stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The Recovery Act was passed by Congress in February and provides $787 billion for economic improvement projects in areas such as job creation, infrastructure and energy efficiency.

“We are really looking for bids and ideas in three areas where we are a little weak as a state: smart grid, broadband and health information technology,” Richardson said. “In these areas we are eligible for awards. We’re trying to make sure communities know about these potential bids. The more you do this with other communities, cities and counties, the better chance you have of getting these bids. These projects have to be shovel ready to create jobs.”

There are a lot of different formulas and a lot of competition for certain grants being awarded through the stimulus package, Richardson said.
“What we are trying to do is link up our team with you so we can get the best applications for small communities that don’t have the expert grant writers,” said Richardson, who was accompanied by Allan Oliver, director of Cabinet Affairs, and Eric Witt, deputy chief of staff.

Local government and elected officials and residents pitched the following projects:
• Jimmy Sandoval, a member of Mesalands Community College Board of Trustees, said the college’s proposed residence hall could use some funding.
• Bobbye Rose, Tucumcari city manager, requested funding to assist the city in dealing with the Sands Dorsey building, which was burned and damaged in June 2007. Funds are needed to remediate the problem. An engineer has recommended razing the building, while other planning professionals have recommended salvaging the building.
“One of the problems is that it (Sands Dorsey) is part of the downtown’s historical heritage and tearing down the building may affect the ability to have the area declared an historic district,” Rose said.

• County Commissioner Bill Curry said, the city and county need engineering services. “This community is not in the position to have shovel-ready projects because we don’t have an engineer and its costly. I’m wondering how small communities can be brought together that don’t have an engineer. “We’d love to have shovel ready projects to meet your needs, but we don’t have the budgets and money to employ engineers.”

• Robert Lumpkin, renewable energy consultant, said there is $4.5 billion in federal funds for transmission lines nationwide, and Quay County and eastern New Mexico should seek out some of those dollars for transmission lines. “The customers are there. We just need to get some energy there (to California and Arizona),” Lumpkin said.
RITA could act as the coordinating authority to develop transmission corridor through this area of the state, Lumpkin suggested.
Lumpkin is coordinating The New Mexico Coalition. It includes groups of cooperatives of landowners, to promote the development of wind farms and a transmission corridor.
“It’s important that ranchers and landowners get organized, get their landowner rights together, not just for protection, but so they can share in the bounty and the profits,” Richardson said.

• Other projects brought to the governor’s attention included funding equipment for the Regional Dispatch service housed in the Tucumcari Police Department; continued funding of the Workforce Solution office in Tucumcari; increased staff at the State Engineer’s District 7 office which covers Quay County; and the Canadian River Basin.

Several local officials brought projects that are moving slowly to the governor’s attention, such as:
• Funds for Phase II of the new Tucumcari High School are not moving as fast as expected because consideration of the sale of bonds had been pushed back to June, said State Rep. Dennis Roch (R)

• The city has an opportunity to sell its waste water to farmers to irrigate and for cattle at the Tucumcari Feedyard but that it was “taking an exceptionally long time” to get approval from the state’s Environment Department, Tucumcari City Commissioner Jim Witcher said.

• The city and the county had each requested in 2006 to exercise their option for 400 acre feet of water annually from Ute Lake from the Office of the State Engineer, but had not yet received approval, Quay County Manager Richard Primrose said.

“We can use that water,” Primrose said. “We do have a contract to sell them (Ute Lake Ranch) water. We have not been able to get that done. We requested it in 2006. We still have not gotten approval, where we can sublease that water.”

Witcher said that part of the deal with Ute Lake Ranch included a provision for the developer to convert the water into a drinkable water, that could then be used by the city.

So that small communities, cities and counties could seek Recovery Act funds, Richardson said the Competitive Grant Advisory Team will hold a meeting at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Tucumcari Convention Center.

However, the team may not have programs ready on Wednesday for those communities seeking engineering or planning assistance. Those resources and experts should be available at meetings planned by the team for May 20 in Albuquerque and on May 21 in Las Cruces.

“I want to emphasize to stay in touch with our office because in the end we have a lot of authority over these funds,” Richardson said.