Serving the High Plains

City OKs donation of land for ballparks

Tucumcari city commissioners on Thursday at long last approved the donation of city land to Tucumcari Public Schools for the latter’s ballpark redevelopment plan.

Interim city manager Mark Martinez, saying the donation was “long overdue,” said the deal involved not only city land near the convention center, but also county land.

He said some of the property lines were not accurate, further complicating surveying of the site.

TPS superintendent Aaron McKinney, seated in the gallery during the meeting, said surveying costs for the project swelled from an initial estimate of $20,000 to about $54,000.

“I don’t think anybody thought it would be that convoluted,” city commissioner Mike Cherry said.

The project also was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

McKinney also said construction costs have doubled since district voters in February 2019 approved a $3 million bond issue for the project to redevelop the high school’s baseball and softball fields. The cost spikes prompted the district to take on much of the work itself in an effort to save money.

The donation involves the school district taking possession of all four high-school diamonds on the city’s west side.

The county a few days before the city commission meeting also donated a sliver of land for the project.

The Little League baseball fields would remain in possession of the city.

The city is not done with land transactions in that area. Martinez said the city in a future meeting will need to donate land near the Quay County Fairgrounds rodeo arena in exchange for a county tract near the convention center.

Delays in the ballpark project became a source of frustration for months among several school board members during meetings.

Mayor Ruth Ann Litchfield during a work session Thursday also pushed back on a perception a school board member allegedly commented the city “didn’t care” about area children’s recreational opportunities.

TPS board President Heather Gonzales, noting the condition of the Little League fields, said during a July meeting she doubted whether the city gave much priority to infrastructure for children’s activities.

“It’s about the people that travel through and not about the kids,” she said.

McKinney disavowed that comment on Thursday, saying “it didn’t come from me.”