By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
The city of Tucumcari will apply for a grant to re-energize its emergency siren system, the city commission has decided.
If the city receives the grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the sirens will supplement the “reverse 911” telephone system that warns of approaching extreme weather, including tornadoes.
Rejuvenating the sirens would cost $67,082, with $44,136 coming from the grant and $23,846 coming from the city, according to city documents.
Mayor Robert Lumpkin proposed the renewal of the siren system because, he said, people may not be near phones to receive warnings about approaching severe weather. The siren system, he said, will warn people who are outside and away from their phones.
The new system would completely replace the existing city siren system, which was built in the 1950s, Lumpkin said. The system’s performance has been sporadic for many years, he said.
The new system would place a siren near the Tucumcari Convention Center, Lumpkin said, to cover the population on the city’s northwest side, as well as residents of areas just outside the city.
Ralph Lopez, a grant writer in the city’s community development department, said he would explore different sources to meet the city’s share of the project funding.
At the commission’s Aug. 21 meeting, Lumpkin also led commission discussions of the city’s position on Ute Lake water issues, a proposed referendum on a temporary tax shift to fund demolition of the Sands Dorsey building, and the city’s franchise agreement with Xcel Energy to provide electricity service to the city.
Lumpkin reminded the commission of the city’s support for maintaining a “minimum pool” at Ute Lake in order to assure the lake will continue to be a favored recreation site for fishing and boating. The minimum pool, he said, should be maintained at 3,765 feet above sea level in order to maintain favoring fishing and boating conditions.
The lake’s recreational use accounts for 300 to 400 jobs in Quay County, Lumpkin said.
Lumpkin said he continues to advocate for the 3,765 minimum pool level as a condition of allowing the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Utility Authority to draw off as much as 24,000 acre feet of water per year from Ute Lake to serve municipal and agricultural needs of communities in Curry and Roosevelt counties when the authority’s pipeline is completed in 20 years. The first phase of the pipeline at project, a $14.2 million intake structure, is nearing completion on Ute Lake’s south shore.
City Manager Doug Powers said that even at its current level of 3,779 feet above sea level and a near-normal rainfall, the lake is only at 77 percent of capacity. At that level, the lake currently holds 155,000 acre feet, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey.
An acre foot is enough to cover one acre of land one foot deep, about 325,851 gallons.
Lumpkin also reminded the commission about a proposal to divert a gross receipts tax that funds the city’s Ute Lake activities to the demolition and disposal of the Sands Dorsey building, which lies in ruins in the center of Tucumcari’s downtown. Diverting the tax for two years would raise about $500,000, Lumpkin said, which would be enough to demolish and dispose of the building and maybe establish a park on the building’s current site.
Diverting that tax, however, would require voter approval in a special election, Lumpkin said.
The commission also discussed the city’s franchise agreement with Xcel Energy, which gives Xcel the right to be the city’s only provider of electricity service. Under the current franchise agreement, Xcel pays 3 percent of its revenues to the city for the right to sell electricity services.
David Essex, the regional representative for Xcel, told the commission that 25-year periods are standard for such franchise agreements and recommended the city continue to assess the 3 percent charge. Raising that charge, he said, would lead to an increase in electricity rates.
Essex also reminded the commission that Xcel recently constructed a $20 million power plant in the city that will serve as backup power to avoid long-term electricity outages, should the city’s power transmission link be interrupted for more than an hour or two.