By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
Government representatives from Eastern New Mexico communities presented their capital outlay priorities to their state representatives and senators during a legislative forum Monday night in Tucumcari.
Meeting and speaking with the constituents were state Rep. Dennis Roch (R) and George Dodge Jr. (D) and state Sen. Pete Campos (D) and Pat Woods (R).
The purpose of the forum is to give the communities a chance to hear from the legislators first hand about what to expect from next years legislative session, said Ray Mondragon, economic and community development planner for the Eastern Plains Council of Government.
Campos said the main thing to remember with capital outlay requests, is that it’s not just about the district or portion of the state represented; it’s also about the entire state. He said everyone needs to work together to help make the state better for our children.
Dodge said the money for capital outlay projects has been declining in recent months. He said he is optimistic there will be a turnaround and the amount will increase as the next legislative session approaches.
Dodge said he is aware of how important capital outlay funding is for rural communities.
“Capital outlay is the lifeblood of rural communities,” Dodge said. “The money helps fund the development and improvement of infrastructure critical to the communities.”
Roch said the first thing he wants people to know about the forum is the elected representatives conducting the forum are not celebrities or stars of the event. He said officials and residents of the many communities who took the time to attend the event are the heroes and celebrities.
Roch said legislators representing the eastern portion of the state plan on working together to makes sure the numerous needs of the communities are met.
Roch also spoke about his ongoing effort to reform workers compensation laws. He said the law needs changes that keep workers who were hurt on the job while they were drunk or high on drugs from receiving full benefits.
Woods said he was thankful to be back in Tucumcari to speak with officials and residents. He said the forum reminds him of his first event he attended as a newly elected state senator in Tucumcari.
“I was speaking with (Tucumcari resident) U.V. Henson, who midway through our conversation informed me that he dated my mother at one time,” Woods said. “You can learn a lot at a legislative event.”
Woods said he is not on as many committees dealing with capital outlay as the other three legislators at the forum. He said he knows that capital outlay is important to the communities and will do what he can to get the money where it is most needed.
Woods also spoke about his efforts to reform public education, the children are the future and we must ensure they have a successful future. He said he is also involved in water and natural resources committees that are vital to the states economic development.
Following the statements from legislators, officials from the communities presented their capital outlay priorities.
The City of Tucumcari, Quay County and Arch Hurley Conservancy District yielded their time on the open floor for the other communities to present their priorities.
Tucumcari, Quay County and Arch Hurley will present their needs at a later time.
The priorities expressed included;
The Village of Logan Manager Larry Wallin asked legislators to look into the recent reduction of funding for the senior citizens centers.
Wallin said that according to the latest funding projections, the money the state will reimburse communities for services is not going to cover near the cost. He said the scale needs to be adjusted for the rural communities where the cost of preparing and serving meals is greater than in larger cities.
Wallin also asked for money for the repair of their streets. He said the streets of the village have been damaged by rain this past year.
Wallin also spoke about the attitude of the Office of the State Engineer toward the eastern side of the state. He said lately, it seems office staffers’ attitude has been less than friendly. “Everything they seem to be working toward lately has a negative impact on the communities and residents,” Wallin added.
One of Fort Sumner’s top priorities is replacement of 3,000 feet of a 60-year-old sewer line that runs beneath the school, said Public Works Director Louie Gallegos.
Gallegos said the sewer line is in dire need of replacement. He said problems with the system and the location of the line have proven to be problematic.
City Clerk Jamie Wall, said Fort Sumner needs a new ambulance.
Wall said the city has one newer ambulance but the two additional units each have more than 130,000 miles of service calls. She said the ambulance service covers a vast area, so having two dependable units is crucial.
“This forum was so helpful it gave all of us a chance to speak face-to-face with the legislators,” Gallegos said.
Dianna Hernandez, executive director of the Food Bank of Eastern New Mexico addressed legislators with the needs of the service that provides 1 million pounds of food to the seven counties in eastern New Mexico.
Hernandez said the food bank needs $70,000 to repair the walk-in coolers and freezers that allow the food bank to collect and store meat and dairy products safely. She said the roof above the walk-in needs repair. The membrane roof above those units continue to leak, Hernandez explained.
A need for an expanded ground water study for Union County to determine to amount of water and refresh rates of ground water sources in the area.
The $1.7 million request was presented by Union County Commission Chair Justin Bennett.
Bennett said this study is vital for the future economic development of Union County. He said another priority is funding for a law enforcement complex for adequate space for the sheriff’s and district attorney’s office.
Vaughn Mayor Ramon Garcia said the main priority for the city is the repair of a water transmission line from the water well eight miles west of the city.
Garcia said the city needs to have a water well that is currently not in operation repaired; he estimated the cost of repairing that well at $400,000. Garcia said the water issues are crucial, given that the city recently was without water for five days.
Garcia also spoke to the need of a trash transport truck.
Mondragon said the forum was a collaborative event between Epcog, Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corp., City of Tucumcari, Quay County and the Tucumcari/Quay County Chamber of Commerce.