Resolution receives narrow approval
April 29, 2020
A resolution asking New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to consider allowing businesses in the state’s rural cities to reopen to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus received narrow approval Thursday at a regular meeting of the Tucumcari City Commission.
The measure was approved on a 3-2 vote. District 4 Commissioner Chris Arias and Mayor Ruth Ann Litchfield joined district 5 Commissioner Todd Duplantis, who proposed the resolution, in voting for the resolution. District 1 Commissioner Ralph Moya and District 2 Commissioner Paul Villanueva voted against it.
Most small-town businesses are essential, Duplantis said, because residents can stay in town to do their buying.
“If people travel to larger cities to get what they need,” Duplantis said, “they increase the risk of picking up the virus and bringing it back with them.”
Duplantis said a requirement that motels use only 25% of their capacity does not allow them to be profitable.
Arias said the freeze means some businesses in town might shut down permanently.
The resolution, however, also commends the governor for the protective actions she has ordered, which include shutting down nonessential businesses, keeping people at least six feet apart and recommending masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Litchfield voiced reservations in spite of her vote in favor of the resolution.
“We are susceptible,” she said. “We’re located on Interstate 40.”
Moya pointed out Quay County had reported four cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday and said his counseling business had suffered but was adapting by holding sessions by telephone or Tel-Med.
He said, however, social isolation is needed, and the governor’s order should stand.
City manager Mark Martinez addressed another misunderstanding from COVID-19 orders for utilities to suspend customer shutoffs while people are losing income due to mandatory shutdowns.
Martinez, acknowledging complaints from residents who said the city had shut off their water because of non-payment, said the rules for private utilities that prevent shutoffs do not apply to the city’s water utility.
Martinez said many who complained were customers who were chronic offenders in non-payment of water bills.
The city will work with customers who inform the city they will be unable to pay if calls are made before the 21st of any month, which is the payment deadline. Payment after the 21st of any given month is late, he said.
“Bills are due on the 10th, but the deadline for payment is the 21st,” he said.
Moya pointed out many customers are unemployed.
“I hate to see people have to suffer in hard times,” he said.
Martinez said the city is obligated to pay revenue bonds that finance improvements to the water system, and those bonds are based on continued revenue.
“We try to be compassionate,” Martinez said, and said again the city will work with those who inform the city of their difficulty in paying the bill in advance.
Customers can pay online, he said, and they still can pay bills in person at City Hall during normal business hours.
Martinez also cautioned residents against using a third-party bill payment service advertising on search engines such as Google. Martinez said the company is not reliable in paying bills on time.
Martinez said online bill payers should go through the city’s website at: https://www.municipalonlinepayments.com/tucumcarinm.
Grants for events
COVID-19-related cancellations also affected the commission’s approval of Lodgers’ Tax Board recommendations for funding of promotional activities for events. The commission approved LTB recommendations on condition that money is available to fund them through September.
The LTB recommendations totaled $61,500 of $78,000 requested because of expected reductions in lodger’s tax revenues because of COVID-19 restrictions, according to board Chairman Larry Smith.
In making a motion to approve the board’s recommendations, Arias asked the commission to add $3,000 for the Tucumcari/Quay County Chamber of Commerce.
Smith said the board had recommended against a new allocation for the chamber because it had adequate funds available due to COVID-19 event cancellations that resulted in money not being used.
The commission approved Arias’ motion, with Moya voting “no.” Moya said he “respectfully” voted no because of the LTB’s reasoning on denying an allocation to the chamber.
The commission approved these LTB recommendations:
• Wheels on Fire 100 cycling event: $3,700;
• Rattler Reunion: $4,000;
• New Mexico Music Showcase: $8,000;
• Rockin’ Route 66: $23,500;
• Rawhide Days: $9,300;
• Fired Up: $10,000;
• Tucumcari Talking Tour: $2,000;
• Shootout at Six Shooter Siding disc golf tournament, $1,000.
In other action Thursday, the commission:
• Approved fire department funding from the New Mexico Fire Marshal’s office of at least $194,253. Fire Chief Doug Hogan said the actual fund allocation likely will be larger as the state fire fund grows.
• Approved an amendment to an engineering, design, consulting and bidding contract with Bohannon Huston, an Albuquerque engineering firm, for services related to expansion of the Great Blocks program of appearance-related improvements on Main Street from Third Avenue to First Avenue. The project has added Second Street from Main to Aber Street. The commission approved adding $17,466 for the expanded services.
• Approved financial reports for the Jan. 1 to March 31 quarter that show an overall favorable balance of $362,420 in city government funds.
• Approved the city’s final audit report for fiscal 2019, which ended June 30, 2019. City Finance Director Rachelle Arias said the report was favorable overall, and the city has acted to correct minor shortcomings related to internal controls on information technology, use of fuel charging cards, travel expenses and payroll accounting, she said.
• Appointed Alida Brown, retired director of the Quay County Health Council, to the city’s library board.