Commissioners discuss old issues in workshop

Steve Hansen

QCS Managing Editor

Two old issues dominated discussion Thursday as three new commissioners engaged in their first Tucumcari City Commission.

The commission uses workshops to discuss some matters but does not take action.

Commissioner Robert Lumpkin, who was later elected mayor, began discussions on temporarily diverting tax funds now paid into a Ute Lake water fund to help finance final disposal of the Sands Dorsey building ruins downtown. He also suggested changing the public comment policy for city commission meetings.

In 2010 and 2011, the commission attempted unsuccessfully to divert gross receipts tax funds that now go into the Ute Lake fund to finance disposal of the Sands Dorsey remains, an eyesore since 2007. New commissioners discussed the idea of again bringing the matter before voters in either the general election in November or a special election.

“This move will not raise taxes,” Lumpkin emphasized, saying it would be only a temporary diversion of fund from a tax already being paid. The $1.5 million that tax has already raised, he said, must continue to be reserved for matters related to the city’s use of water from Ute Lake.

Fifth District Commissioner John Mihm mentioned a proposal from the Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corp. to use the site as a business incubator, a facility that would help a new business start in Tucumcari.

That idea, however, has stalled, since a source of funding has not been located, Lumpkin said.

City Manager Doug Powers said efforts to get a cleanup project plan approved by the New Mexico Environmental Department are snagged on compliance issues.

What makes cleaning up the site expensive, Lumpkin said, is some light contamination of some of the building materials at the site.

The cost of final disposal, however, could be reduced, he said, if a facility that can handle such contaminated waste can be built in Clovis. That site, however, is not likely to be completed until late this year, according to Ray Mondragon, of the Eastern Plains Council of Governments, who attended the workshop.

Mihm asked about the liability of the current owner, Robert Hengstenberg, who has apparently been declared in legal action as not having the assets to clean up the site. Attorney George Adelo of Santa Fe continues to represent Hengstenberg in that matter.

“If he (Hengstenberg) has an attorney,” Mihm said. “He has assets.”

Lumpkin said, however, that an asset search on Hengstenberg had apparently demonstrated the owner could not finance the demolition of the building himself.

Lumpkin also proposed that the commission adopt an application form to be used by citizens who seek to address the city commission at its public meetings.

After some rancorous public comment periods in previous meetings late last year, the commission adopted rules that limit each speaker to three minutes and to confine comments to items on the meeting agenda.

Even with that restriction, Lumpkin said, “people use that three minutes for grandstanding, demeaning city commissioners and launching surprise attacks.”

Lumpkin proposed that the city require persons who want to speak to apply for the privilege at least 48 hours before a meeting and state the topics they wish to address. That would allow commissioners to prepare to respond to concerns addressed, Lumpkin said, and assure that proper decorum is maintained.

Public comment at commission meetings, Lumpkin said, “is a privilege, not a right,” an opinion that has been supported by City Attorney Randy Knudson.

Mihm agreed with Lumpkin that placing some restriction on how public comments are managed does not result in a reduction of rights, but allows the commission “to take control of the forum.”

The commissioners agreed to discuss a revised application form and to find out about public comment policies of other public bodies in the community.

The commission also discussed a proposal to move the city’s farmer’s market from Wailes Park to the Tucumcari Rail Depot.

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