Serving the High Plains

Oversight delays streets resolution

An apparent paperwork oversight prevented Tucumcari city commissioners on Thursday from approving a resolution for $319,000 in state capital outlay funds slated for street improvements.

The inaction also prevented approval of an agreement for capital appropriations for the same project.

Project manager Ralph Lopez said the capital outlay funds, which were awarded during the New Mexico Legislature’s session earlier this year, probably would be used for resurfacing South Third Street from the Quay County Courthouse to Main Street.

However, at least two of the four commissioners didn’t receive a copy of the resolution, nor the agreement.

City manager Paula Chacon and City Clerk Angelica Gray walked briskly behind city commission chambers to retrieve copies of at least one of the sets of documents. Gray’s absence briefly prevented the taking of roll call.

Regardless, Commissioner Mike Cherry moved to table the matter. Cherry has been adamant about voting only on matters that have been a part of the commission’s document packet for at least 72 hours before its meeting.

Asked about the lack of documents later, Gray said she wasn’t sure what led to the oversight.

Lopez said he was unsure of the deadline of when the resolution and agreement for capital outlay funds must be approved by the commission, though he noted it could hold a special meeting if needed.

The absence of documentation also precluded the commission from approving a resolution showing administrative and financial support of the second phase of Tucumcari MainStreet’s Great Blocks project on Second Street.

Tucumcari MainStreet director Connie Loveland said she could accept a letter of support from the city manager instead. She said she had only a three-week window from New Mexico MainStreet to submit the paperwork, with an Aug. 29 deadline.

Loveland said the $425,000 project would pay for lighting, landscaping, irrigation and some concrete work, along with solar-powered lighting for a mural on Main Street. The project would require a 20% match, or about $51,000, from the city.

Also, because of unanswered questions, the commission removed from its agenda resolutions regarding fourth-quarter financial reports and fourth-quarter budget adjustments, both for fiscal-year 2023.

During a work session Thursday, Cherry objected to receiving a budget adjustment report of almost 100 pages.

“I cannot approve it because I don’t know what it means,” he said. “I think we should do more due diligence.”

Later during the meeting, Mayor Ralph Moya complained about not getting the right information from the city’s finance department that delayed decisions by the commission.

Chacon said the finance director, Rachelle Arias, had resigned earlier this month, and she was seeking a certified public accountant to take over the position.

Other action

— Commissioners approved a five-year infrastructure capital improvement plan for the Tucumcari Senior Center. The plan serves as a roadmap for possible capital outlay funding from the legislature.

Leading the list for the 2025 fiscal year is $150,000 in parking lot and handicapped-accessible sidewalk improvements.

Second on the 2025 list is $24.46 million for a multi-purpose senior center that would contain a senior center, recreation center and swimming pool.

Program director Clara Rey said the current senior center is “bursting at the seams” and lacks space for multiple activities and social distancing during a current uptick in COVID-19 cases.

She said a swimming pool with the new center would be therapeutic for seniors with arthritis. She described the new center, for which a site has not been proposed and is considered a long-range goal, would be a “win-win” for the city because it would have multigenerational uses.

“Our community needs stuff,” Rey said, “not just for our seniors, but also our youth.”

Other items on the list are a delivery vehicle for $90,000 in 2026, transportation vehicles for $190,000 in 2027, a carport canopy for $30,000 in 2028 and kitchen equipment replacement for $25,000 in 2029.

— Commissioners approved a task order for bidding and construction for a new fuel system at Tucumcari Municipal Airport.

Lopez said the total project would be about $2 million, with $254,443.76 in engineering fees. All would be covered by state aviation funds.

— Commissioners approved a final beginning budget for FY2024. Action for that had been delayed by two weeks after commissioners asked questions about a reserve fund.

— Commissioners went into a closed executive session for almost an hour in Chacon’s office to discuss possible litigation and personnel matters. No action was taken when open session resumed.

Manager’s report

Chacon and Gray talked about efforts to repair and reopen Tucumcari Municipal Pool.

Gray said they anticipate the pool will be filled with water by this Friday after a new pump is installed, pipework is completed and replastering.

Chacon said she hoped certification for the lifeguards would be finished by Sept. 1. She said she tried to have certification done in Clovis or Las Vegas, but the pools there lacked the depth of Tucumcari’s.

Commissioners agreed once the pool reopens, admission should be free because of the shorter season.

Chacon said the city is ordering a handicapped chair, a cover and a chlorinator for the pool.

The pool had been closed since 2019 because of the pandemic and leaks. The state gave the city a $219,000 recreation grant to repair the facility.

— Chacon said terms for Matt Bednorz and Al Patel have expired for the Lodgers Tax Advisory Board, and Lila Doughty’s term will expire in November. Chacon said she would advertise to fill those positions.

— Chacon said she recently received an easement for a new sewer lift station to be installed near the KOA Campground, and the project would go out for bids. She anticipated a cost of $1.1 million that will be covered by a two-year-old $500,000 capital outlay award for the project, plus coronavirus relief funds.

— She said commissioners by mid-September would vote on funding for the wastewater reuse project that includes a $1.8 million grant and a $1.4 million no-interest loan.

— Chacon said the city soon will open bids for roof repairs to the Tucumcari Chamber of Commerce building that hail damaged in May.

Comments

— Moya noted the state again has record revenue and that the city “needs to put a good list together” for capital outlay requests for the 2024 legislative session.

He said city should invite its lobbyist and area legislators to help with the list. Moya said funding should concentrate on fixing potholes.

— Commissioner Paul Villanueva passed along complaints about the animal control officer and open burning.

Villanueva also asked about the possibility of clearing burned-out houses. Moya said the cost is about $60,000 per structure.

— Commissioner Christopher Arias asked about appraisals on city-owned houses and commercial building that might be put up for auction. Cherry noted some rental contracts with the city may be expired.

— During public comments, Rachel Garcia and Sarah Sanchez complained about contractor John Pacheco’s alleged failure to fulfill his contracts. “I’m not alone” in the complaints, Garcia said. Another resident levied complaints about contractor issues and that the city’s code and enforcement officer should be involved.

 
 
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