Serving the High Plains

Improvements on way

The way has been paved for the Tucumcari Senior Citizens Center to receive long-awaited improvements to its kitchen, electrical system, service entrance and driveway.

The Tucumcari City Commission on Thursday officially accepted a $207,800 grant from the New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services Department in a unanimous vote.

Those improvements include a new enclosure for the senior center’s walk-in freezer, a new waterproof floor for the kitchen, replacement of cabinets, adjustments to convert a back room into a pantry, electrical system improvements, service entrance repairs and replacement of the senior center’s asphalt driveway with a concrete one.

With the commission’s approval to receive the grant, “we can start going out for bids,” senior center director Clara Rey told the commission.

In the public work session that preceded Thursday’s regular meeting, commissioners agreed to suggest in a letter that calls on the board of directors for the Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corporation to conduct an executive session to review the performance of Patrick Vanderpool, the EDC’s executive director.

City manager Britt Lusk said such a letter does not require a commission vote.

“We write it, and commissioners come in and sign it,” he said.

Lusk, who sits on the EDC board, however, said the EDC has set goals, “but we’re not getting support.”

EDC board meetings are public, but few attend, he said.

District 2 Commissioner Amy Gutierrez said the EDC has a record of recent failures, including a flashlight maker that left town and other businesses that have not gotten off the ground.

Meanwhile, she said, many continue to think “we’re living in a dying city.”

Gutierrez said the city should consider withdrawing the $50,000 a year the city provides the EDC.

In a report delivered in August, Vanderpool listed a growers’ cooperative among area farmers, workforce development initiatives and new opportunities “to be more aggressive about attracting business” as areas where he is working to advance economic development in the city.

He also said he is discussing development of more job-training opportunities with Mesalands Community College President John Groesbeck.

District 1 Commissioner Ralph Moya said the EDC should look into advancing hemp farming to harvest cannabidiol (CBD), a substance that does not produce a high such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that comes from similar hemp plants. CBD is said to relieve pain and help some users relax or sleep.

Moya said there are 40,000 acres available for growing hemp plants around Tucumcari.

District 5 Commissioner Todd Duplantis said he has been approached by persons interested in establishing a farm to produce medical marijuana.

Also in the work session, commissioners discussed marketing services for the city and restoration of the Princess Theater downtown.

Lusk proposed the city use college student interns to conduct marketing activities for the city.

Students would receive as much as $10 an hour, along with college credit, for their services.

Lusk said Mesalands Community College has begun a program to train students in marketing and media production skills, and this program could provide interns to work with the city.

Moya proposed a stipend system that would pay college students in a lump sum and help them with college expenses. He also said student assistants also could be recruited from New Mexico Highlands University and other four-year colleges.

District 4 commissioner Chris Arias suggested: “We could make two positions

available per semester, and maybe eventually we could take on more.”

Turning to the Princess Theater building, Litchfield and Moya said they had spoken with Joe Dean, who designs lighting and electrical systems for the Meow Wolf interactive museum and gallery in Santa Fe.

Dean has expressed interest in developing the Princess Theater over a period of three to five years into a café in front, with a museum and movie theater behind the café.

Litchfield said live drama is another possibility, due to a proposal to create a touring theater group that would rotate productions among Tucumcari, Taos and Santa Fe.

Moya said the cost of renovating the Princess would be about $1.1 million.

Connie Loveland, director of Tucumcari MainStreet, which focuses on renovating downtown, said she would look into federal grants that could help fund the restoration.

In his city manager report, Lusk said the city is working with two chronic problems on the city’s north side. One is a boat that has been parked on a city street for months. Lusk said the boat was moved, and the city is going through a process to declare the boat’s owner cannot be found, which would lead to state authorization to dispose of the vessel.

Lusk also said a car behind the city’s main fire station on Adams Street has been used to train firefighters on “Jaws of Life”-type equipment used to extract accident victims from vehicles in accident situations.

That car, he said, will be towed away because it no longer is useful for that purpose.

Lusk also said the city is purchasing equipment that will allow video recording and internet broadcasting of commission meetings.

In commissioner items, Duplantis asked whether capital outlay funds could be reserved for street repairs.

Some streets in the city, especially on the south side, he said, “have been in bad shape as long as I’ve been alive.”

Gutierrez suggested the city take photos of streets in disrepair as was done to identify rundown properties in the city.

Lusk said street repairs have gotten expensive. The cost to fix a few blocks easily can come to $1 million. In some cases, he said, streets cannot be resurfaced without replacing utility lines and conduits beneath them.

Lusk also said the city is starting to foreclose on some properties so the city can tear down dilapidated buildings, fix lots, then resell the property.

In other action, the commission:

n Approved park use permits to the Tucumcari Disk Golf on Oct. 19-20 for its Shootout at Six Shooter Siding tournament at Five Mile Park, to Tucumcari MainStreet for an Art in the Park exhibit at Sands Dorsey Park downtown on Oct. 16, and to Noreen Hendrickson for a Rosary Rally at Kvols Park held Saturday.

n Reappointed Ed Shipley to the city's Planning and Zoning Board.