Serving the High Plains

Commission greenlights Hometown Heroes Park initiative

The Tucumcari City Commission on Thursday greenlighted an initiative to create a Hometown Heroes Park at the Sand Dorsey site at Second and Main streets.

Anthony Kent and Tucumcari MainStreet director Connie Loveland presented the idea for a memorial to recognize noteworthy Tucumcari residents.

The idea for a park to honor local heroes sprung from Kent, who two years ago proposed a downtown memorial for deceased New Mexico civil rights activist Alice Faye Kent Hoppes, a Tucumcari native. Kent was Hoppes’ nephew.

Loveland said New Mexico MainStreet would cover the costs of research, planning and design for the Hometown Heroes Park, saving about $20,000.

She said she also was looking for grants to cover other costs for the park, including one that could provide up to $30,000.

Commissioners seemed receptive to the proposal.

“It’s a great idea,” CJ Oglesby said.

Hoppes for years was president of the Albuquerque branch of the NAACP and director of the Office of African American Affairs under Gov. Bill Richardson before her death from cancer in 2003 at age 64.

After her death, she was one of the few people whose body laid in state in the state capitol’s rotunda.

Hoppes’ sister, Haroldie K. Spriggs, told the Quay County Sun in an interview earlier this year she would travel from her home in Maryland to attend a dedication of such a memorial.

Other action

— Commissioners approved a $50,000 consultant agreement with Urban Collabs to estimate the economic viability and create design concepts for the long-closed Princess Theatre.

Urban Collabs has offices in Barcelona and Dubai. According to its website, it is a collaboration of international experts in urban design, public art and data science.

During public comments, Princess Theatre Task Force member Matt Monahan said the agreement will determine whether restoring the theater would be a worthwhile endeavor. He said the funds for the study will not be taken away from other city projects.

The money for the agreement comes from a portion of capital outlay funds. The city has spent $200,000 of that money to remove asbestos and lead from the theater, which shut down after a fire in 1962.

— Commissioners approved a lone bid by Ag Services Construction for Phase II of the wastewater reuse program for $2.48 million. Project manager Ralph Lopez said the bid was lower than the estimated cost. He said construction on that part of the project can begin right away.

The city still has not approved a bid for Phase I because an initial bid was substantially higher than the estimate. Lopez said city officials are evaluating their options for that part of the project.

— Commissioners approved using $4,300 in executive lodgers tax funds to reimburse advertising expenses for the Joe Peters concert in March. A total of 67 people attended the event, less than expected. A vigil for slain New Mexico State Police patrolman Justin Hare was the same night and likely depressed crowd numbers at the convention center.

— Commissioners approved Parkhill’s environmental monitoring of the new and old landfills. It would monitor five wells quarterly at the new landfill for $42,042.81 and six wells quarterly at the old landfill for $24,480.63.

— Commissioners approved a final change order for the Aber Addition street and water improvement project that saves the city $50,159.08 due to a reduction in materials used. Lopez said those savings would be used to resurface a nearby street.

— Commissioners approved a resolution that gives permission to Tucumcari Senior Center contractor Clara Rey to submit a infrastructure capital improvement plan so it can be eligible for capital outlay funds.

— Commissioners approved documents to begin applying for $325,000 in annual state funds for operating the senior center. They also approved a contract amendment to obtain an additional $35,000 in state funding to finish the center’s current fiscal year. Rey said it needed the money due to higher costs for food and fuel.

— Commissioners approved a $10,000 grant agreement with the New Mexico Aging and Long Term Services Department’s New Mexico Grown Program. Rey said the grant will allow the center to buy locally grown produce and meat.

— Commissioners approved the senior center’s certificate of no submissions for its capital outlay application for 2024. Rey said the senior center instead is looking for another site to build a multigenerational facility.

— Commissioners approved a memo of understanding between the Foster Grandparent Program and Tucumcari Elementary School from 2024 to 2027.

— Commissioners approved a memo of understanding with Apollo MedFlight. Chacon said it would allow the city’s billing company to collect payments at a higher rate.

— Commissioners approved a resolution for the city to participate in the Eastern Plains Council of Governments for $1,878 a year. City manager Paula Chacon will be the city’s representative, with Mayor Mike Cherry as the alternate.

— Commissioners approved an agreement with EPCOG to provide administrative services for a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant for improvements to the Tucumcari Recreation Center. The $15,000 budgeted for the services would be covered by the grant.

Budget session

During a work session before the regular meeting, Chacon warned of a possible liability insurance premium increase of up to 40%, potentially affecting the city’s budget by about $250,000.

Chacon said she’d been informed of premium hikes of between 25% and 40% from Travelers Insurance.

Chacon said she also would schedule a meeting with the wastewater department after finding its spending may surpass revenue by $500,000 in the next fiscal year.

The city has scheduled a special meeting for May 29 to approve a preliminary budget for 2024-2025 before an early June deadline to submit it to the state. The meeting was after the Quay County Sun’s deadline.

Library report

During a presentation of the library board’s minutes for March, library director Linda Gonzalez said the Dr. Seuss Birthday Party celebration at the Quay County Fairgrounds’ exposition center was such a success, it will be moved to the convention center next year.

Gonzalez said the event drew 450 people and 32 booths. She said she also is working on a big finale for the library’s annual summer reading program.

She praised the help from Commissioner Jonathan Brito provided during the Seuss event.

She also said handicapped-access doors have been installed at the library.

Reports, comments

During her manager’s report, Chacon said she aims to reopen the municipal swimming pool the first weekend of June.

She said she was interviewing and shepherded the certification of lifeguards. Chacon said she was having electrical work and other renovations at the facility.

It would be the first time since 2019 the pool has been open. It received a $219,000 state recreation grant last year to make repairs to the facility.

— Chacon said asbestos abatement had been completed at the recreation center and replastering work had started.

— She anticipated repairs to street lights on Tucumcari Boulevard would begin in July, when the state’s new fiscal year begins. Work on street lights has been mostly completed on First Street, Mountain Road and Camino de Coronado.

— During commissioner comments, Oglesby said about 15 mattresses had been dumped at the former Payless Motel site.

— Brito said trees at the Tucumcari Historical Museum needed to be trimmed from lights around the facility.

— During public comments, Troy Duplantis complained about the lack of consistent access to the city’s tree and limb dumping facility.

— Amber Gibbs said more funds need to be devoted to a drug treatment or detox center.