Serving the High Plains

City barely passes Logan bank measure

A Tucumcari City Commission on Thursday barely approved a resolution that asks New Mexico Bank & Trust to rethink the planned closing of its Logan branch later this year.

The resolution split by a 3-2 vote in favor of the measure. Commissioners Mike Cherry, Christopher Arias and Mayor Ruth Ann Litchfield voted for it. Mayor Pro Tem Ralph Moya and Commissioner Paul Villanueva cast votes against it.

The resolution requests Iowa-based HTLF, which owns New Mexico Bank & Trust, to “reconsider” its decision to close its Logan branch.

Moya noted banks typically have upfront expenses of up to $1 million and suggested the Logan branch no longer may be financially viable enough to cover those costs.

“I don’t feel like we should interfere with private enterprise,” Moya said before giving his “no” vote on the resolution. “I don’t feel this is a good step for the commission to take.”

Shortly before his vote, Villanueva said he agreed with Moya.

Cherry said Logan residents often spend their money in Tucumcari, and the commission needs “to show our support for this.”

Cherry then made a motion to approve the resolution, and Arias seconded it.

The Tucumcari and Logan school boards, Quay County Commission, Arch Hurley Conservancy District, Mesalands Community College board of trustees and the village boards of Logan and San Jon passed similar resolutions opposing the branch’s closing.

The county commission split by a 2-1 margin, with Jerri Rush voting against it. She cited government overreach as a reason for her vote.

New Mexico Bank & Trust announced earlier in March it would close the Logan branch less than 18 months after the company acquired it and several other banks from FNB-New Mexico. Quay County entities have about $40 million deposited in New Mexico Bank & Trust sites.

The CEO of New Mexico Bank & Trust in mid-March announced it would delay the closing of the Logan branch from early June to mid-December, allowing local leaders more time to find another banking tenant.

The closing of the branch would leave Logan without a bank for the first time in more than a century.

Other action

• Commissioners approved a 60-month payment contract with Axon Enterprise Inc. of Scottsdale, Arizona, for new Tasers for police. According to city documents, the total cost would be $37,650.58.

Acting Police Chief Pete Rivera said state funds would be used for a down payment on the Tasers. He said officers will go through training on the new equipment, with certification. He said commissioners would be welcome to attend the training.

• Commissioners approved an agreement with Stantec Consulting of Tucumcari for $303,531.70 in engineering services for Barnes-Gamble Addition street improvements.

Project manager Ralph Lopez said the engineering fee was “in range” of expectations. He said street improvements for that area are behind schedule and may not begin until fall or next spring, depending on weather.

• Commissioners approved a $182,558.60 with Bixby Electric of Albuquerque to complete electrical and streetlights work on Second Street downtown.

Lopez said the contract was negotiated by lawyers for Bixby and the city, using leftover Great Blocks funds given to Tucumcari MainStreet.

• Commissioners approved an amended agreement on the Hoover Water Tank engineering project that reflects a shorter construction time and a reduction in fees. Lopez said no other changes were made to the pact.

• Commissioners approved using $1,500 in lodgers tax executive funds so Doug Quarles can evaluate about two dozen murals in the city and recommend any needed repairs. City Manager Mark Martinez said the work may include two new murals.

• In the consent agenda, commissioners approved the Tucumcari Disc Golf Club’s permit to use Five Mile Park for an Easter Egg hunt on April 16.

• Commissioners approved an agenda that removed two action items — offering a contract for an events coordinator and a request from Tucumcari Historic Research Institute to waive a $200 business license fee for the Culpepper & Merriweather Circus on April 13. Commissioners also were slated to discuss those during a work session before the meeting, but it was canceled.

Reports, comments

• During his city manager report, Martinez said the city will be short on money to complete the wastewater reuse project north of town and a sewer line lift station near the KOA campground. He said federal funds might cover the rest of the cost, or he might be able to renegotiate the funding arrangement with the state.

• Martinez said Tucumcari Greater Economic Development Corp. director Patrick Vanderpool would meet with the commission at its next meeting April 14. He said that would be the first of quarterly reports Vanderpool would give.

• Martinez said the polishing of floors and other renovations at the Tucumcari Convention Center would be done before booked events take place in late April.

• Moya asked about the status of a city ambulance that has needed repairs since August. Martinez said the vehicle’s rear end needs to be rebuilt, and he would discuss having the work finished out of town. Moya criticized Martinez for letting the ambulance go unrepaired for so long. “This is a necessary service,” Moya said.

• Martinez said one police officer was leaving, and the department likely will need more officers soon. Rivera said he was working on obtaining new body cameras and laptops for officers, though he noted many items remain on backorder. Rivera said non-city funds are available for such equipment and “won’t cost us a dime.”

Cherry, a former city police chief, said the police department is competing with New Mexico State Police, which recently received an 18% pay raise from the legislature. Cherry also noted job applications for emergency medical technicians have declined 40% to 60% in many areas.

• Villanueva noted city crews are shorthanded in repairing potholes, but a Tucumcari Boulevard business owner wanted to meet with Martinez to discuss the issue.

• Litchfield said April is World Autism Month, and the commission likely will approve a proclamation recognizing that during its next meeting April 14.

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