Serving the High Plains

Tucumcari approves joint powers agreement

Tucumcari continues to be entitled to up to 6,000 acre-feet of water from Ute Lake and agrees to pay $9,000 to the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer to preserve rights to that water for one year under terms of a joint powers agreement the city commission approved Thursday.

The agreement has been in effect since 1995.

Other participants in the pact who are united as the Ute Reservoir Water Commission include Quay County, San Jon and Logan, as well as Clovis, Portales and other communities in Curry and Roosevelt counties.

Tucumcari’s 6,000 acre-feet entitlement represents a quarter of the 24,000 acre-feet JPA members reserve under terms of their agreement with the state engineer’s office.

An acre-foot is enough water to cover an acre to a depth of one foot, or 325,851 gallons. For comparison, an average family of four uses about 144,000 gallons of water per year.

The city of Clovis has rights to more than 52% of the water, with 12,532 acre-feet.

District 4 Commissioner Chris Arias said Clovis acquired the shares of the water from Melrose and Curry counties to attain its majority owner status, and that causes some concern, he said.

“Any hope of getting an increase for Quay County is diminished,” he said, “and the agreement could be scrapped.”

Portales, he said, acquired Roosevelt County’s share.

Tucumcari, however, owns the second-largest share of rights to Ute Lake water, according to the agreement. Portales, which now has rights to 3,583 acre-feet, has rights to the third-largest share.

Quay County has rights to 1,000 acre-feet. Logan has rights to 400 acre-feet, and San Jon can use up to 150 acre-feet under the agreement.

Quay County, Tucumcari, Logan and San Jon also retain voting membership on the agreement, but Curry and Roosevelt counties, as well as the village of Melrose, have only non-voting memberships on the JPA board because they sold their rights since the JPA last was ratified, according to city manager Mark Martinez.

Quay County approved the JPA agreement on Sept. 14.

City manager’s report

In his city manger’s report, Martinez said vandalism has caused closing of the skate park behind the city’s recreation center. He said there also has been vandalism at other parks and the city’s swimming pool. Vandals also have broken windows and destroyed surveillance cameras at the recreation center, he said.

“Is this vandalism tied to COVID-19 restrictions?” he asked. “I don’t know, but we’re having to replace windows and cameras. If anyone sees vandalism, please contact police.”

In later remarks, Mayor Ruth Ann Litchfield noted by damaging the parks, the vandals “are only hurting themselves” by making park property unusable.

Martinez also said the city’s wastewater operations are likely to be subjected to new, “very strict limitations” to qualify for its next discharge permit through the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The city is negotiating the permit with EPA officials, he said.

Testing requirements, he said, “will be very difficult to meet.”

Martinez also reported ownership of all of the city’s public housing units except the Chaparral Apartments will be transferred to the Eastern Regional Housing Authority based in Roswell by the end of the year. The city commission voted in March to surrender management of the public housing units to the regional authority.

“We are in talks about Chaparral,” Martinez said. “We continue to insure the property, but we will be reimbursed for those costs.”

MainStreet report

At a work session before Thursday’s regular commission meeting, Connie Loveland, executive director of Tucumcari MainStreet, reported on MainStreet activities for the first quarter of fiscal 2021 that began July 1.

Loveland said MainStreet is making progress with the Tucumcari Talking Tour, which broadcasts short talks about Tucumcari landmarks that can be picked up on radios by those nearby. Neon-sign restoration efforts have received donations from several states and even one from Germany. The total raised is $1,600, she said.

A preliminary rendering for a logo for Tucumcari’s branding efforts will be unveiled at the next Lodgers Tax Board meeting, she said.

In addition, she said, a video production crew has completed taping for some programs about Tucumcari, and plans are underway for programs to encourage holiday shoppers to buy from local businesses.

Loveland said she has been working with Rhea Serna, a property redevelopment specialist with New Mexico MainStreet, on “how to motivate building owners to refurbish their buildings and attract business.”

A program that offers loans of up to $10,000 for businesses to make building repairs will help that effort, Loveland said.

Arias mentioned the city’s nuisance, dangerous building, vacant building ordinances as possible obstacles. Loveland agreed.

“We don’t want to drive businesses out,” she said.

District 1 Commissioner Ralph Moya, a frequent critic of the city’s nuisance ordinances, warned the city should not resort to “Gestapo tactics” in enforcing the local laws.

Donation of fields to school district

The work session also included a discussion of a proposed donation of baseball and softball diamonds to the Tucumcari Public School District, which is under negotiation.

Martinez said the city wants to be sure some utilities, equipment and right-of-ways are kept under city control and that the city still will be able to access diamonds for Little League and community softball league games.

Other matters

• Revenues for the city in the first quarter of fiscal 2021 exceeded expenses by about $1.3 million, City Finance Director Rachelle Arias told the commission. Documents show the revenues totaled $4.85 million and expenses totaled $3.56 million. Budget adjustments for the first quarter, however, left a deficit of $80,399, Arias said, because reimbursement for some activities in the quarter that ended Sept. 30 would not arrive until October.

• The commission authorized a request to the New Mexico Department of Transportation to transfer $17,837 in funding for improvements in the Aber Addition in northeast Tucumcari to the Second Street resurfacing project downtown. Project manager Ralph Lopez the change was requested because the city’s request for Community Development Block Grant funding to supplement the Aber Addition project was rejected.

• The commission gave final approval to adding $79,656.98 to the cost of the Second Street resurfacing project to acquire new soil because engineers found the existing soil could not be compacted adequately to support new paving on the street, Lopez said.

• To accommodate the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, the commission voted to move its November and December meetings to the first and third Thursdays of those months. The new meeting dates are Nov. 5, Nov. 19, Dec. 3 and Dec. 17. Commission meetings usually are held on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month.

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