Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By David Grieder
Eastern New Mexico News 

Water authority talks money, applicants

 

November 1, 2017



GRADY — The Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority has a busy couple of months ahead, as it seeks both to secure state and federal funds and to select a new executive director from dozens of applicants.

The authority is in a “holding pattern” regarding federal funds, consultant John Ryan said in a presentation Thursday afternoon at the ENMWUA regular meeting in Grady.

More information on the amount of available funds for fiscal year 2018 and the remainder of FY17 will be available in mid-December, he said, while recommending the authority send one or more representatives to Washington, D.C., at that time to advocate for ENMWUA, research strategies and meet key politicians in the capitol.

Meanwhile, an effort to seek $2.9 million from the state was stalled this week at a Water Trust Board meeting when officials denied ENMWUA’s waiver request due to disagreements with the language of a loan application, Office Director Maggie Chapman said Thursday.

The waiver would have given ENMWUA an exemption from a policy requiring fund recipients to expend money in smaller increments rather than saving it, a guideline not suited for a project the size of the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System.

“The waiver is a waiver on a policy that allows you to keep money unspent for a longer period of time than what’s permitted by policy,” said Chairman and Clovis Mayor David Lansford. “Because our project’s so large, it doesn’t make ‘economies of scale’ sense to build in million- and two-million-dollar increments.”

The language disagreement resulting in the waiver denial concerned a recent requirement from the state to have all ENMWUA members sign any loan agreement, rather than having the authority leadership sign on behalf of its constituent entities.

“Each member needs to sign the actual loan agreement. It’s never been like that in the past, but they’re trying to make sure they’re going to get their money back,” Chapman said. “I asked in the meeting, 'Why wasn’t it mentioned that you don’t like the language earlier? We sent (our loan documents) in years ago. We don't understand why now, this late in the process, we have an issue.'”

Chapman said WTB members referred to a previous instance of a community taking on a loan and failing to pay it back, “so they’re holding it against us, though we’ve never had an issue.”

“They’re expecting more security from members than we thought they required,” Lansford said. “They want more commitment, more security from individual members.”

ENMWUA attorney David Richards said in Thursday’s meeting that recent efforts to contest the new policy requirement were unsuccessful so far.

“Through this policy change, their demand is that each individual member sign the agreement even though each individual member’s only real obligation is to make their contribution which they have already agreed to do by resolution or ordinance,” he said. “We’ve tried to explain that in reality the individual members are the beneficiaries of the process or of the authority, not members of the authority in the traditional sense like we would have been under a (Joint Powers Agreement)."

ENMWUA members include the communities of Clovis, Grady, Elida, Melrose, Portales (including Roosevelt County), Texico and Curry County, represented by the authority’s board.

As it stands now, the authority would need to wait until the next application cycle — at least six months away, according to Lansford — before it might access new state funds again.

But there’s an alternate option requiring some quick maneuvers: state activities consultant Joe Thompson said Thursday he intended to speak with the state engineer and members of the municipal league, among other research the next few days, to see if the matter might be reconsidered next week.

“There might be some basis for us to revisit that decision,” he said. “We’ll want to gather as much information as possible and we’ll start to come up with a plan.”

Also at Thursday’s meeting:

• In an executive session, board members discussed the 26 applications received thus far for the executive director position vacated this month by new Clovis City Manager Justin Howalt. The board will meet again to continue discussing applications in an executive session Nov. 14 in Clovis, Lansford said.

• The board unanimously approved the purchase of an easement property east of Cannon Air Force Base with a total financial impact of $12,600.

• Rex Stall reported record levels this month in the Ute Lake Reservoir in Logan, noting a storage increase of 35,547 acre-feet. The reservoir’s maximum allowable storage level is 204, 915 acre feet, while an Oct. 6 peak brought the levels over 6 inches above the spillway crest elevation of 218,932 acre-feet.

According to the Canadian River Compact between New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma, water above the 200,000 acre-foot mark in the Ute Reservoir is released into Texas. Stall said this month’s event was only the third such instance of water exceeding the spillway crest, with previous events in 1995 and 1999.

 

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