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Local leaders seek $11.6 million for public projects

Reps. Greg Nibert and Candy Spence Ezzell, both Republicans from Roswell, listen to Chaves County government and nonprofit leaders request state funding for projects at a Thursday meeting. They were among five legislators representing the area to attend the meeting at the Chaves County Administrative Center. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Funds requested for upgrade to emergency digital radio system, ADA compliant elevator at courthouse

Chaves County leaders presented state legislators with funding requests for 26 projects totaling $11.6 million, with four applications seeking  $1 million or more — in spite of prior caveats that not much in funding will be available from the state this year.

“I have said that we don’t have much money this year, $125,000 to $175,000, if that,” said Hubert Quintana, a consultant working with the Southeast New Mexico Economic Development Corp. / Council of Governments to coordinate funding applications in the five-county region served by the district. “Be aware that the larger funding requests, whether they are for $1 million or $16 million, are probably not going to happen.”

At a Thursday meeting in Roswell, several leaders with government and nonprofit organizations explaining their requests in front of five state representatives and senators acknowledged that funding probably would not be available this year for all or any part of their projects, but they expressed a desire to make legislators aware of needs anyway.

“We are hearing about lots of money, lots of requests, lots of needs,” said Rep. Greg Nibert (R-Roswell), “and what we are hearing is we aren’t going to have a lot of money.”

Government entities, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations eligible for state funding for public projects meet each year with their legislators prior to the start of the legislative session to make presentations and answer questions about their funding applications. By tradition, each legislator is given a portion of available capital funds that can be used for projects in their districts. The Southeast New Mexico Economic Development District is holding meetings throughout Lea, Lincoln, Otero, Eddy and Chaves counties for legislators and public entity leaders.

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In addition to Nibert, other legislators at the Roswell meeting included Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell and Rep. Bob Wooley of Roswell, Sen. Stuart Ingle of Portales and Rep. James Townsend of Artesia. Sens. Cliff Pirtle of Roswell and Gay Kernan of Hobbs did not attend. All area state legislators are Republicans.

The requests presented included six projects forwarded by Chaves County for a total request of $1.43 million; two projects from Dexter totaling $525,000; four projects from Hagerman requesting a total of $1.76 million; two applications from Lake Arthur for $850,000; five requests from Roswell for a total of $6.4 million; three requests from Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell for $125,589; three applications from Senior Olympics for $405,000; and one request from the Southeast New Mexico Veterans Transportation Network of $100,000.

Chaves County requests included some long-term projects that the county has worked on for years, including improvements to five miles of Hobson Road and a joint project with the city of Roswell to upgrade the emergency digital radio system used in the Pecos Valley region. Two projects also involve improvements to the historic Chaves County Courthouse, a $250,000 project to install an elevator compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements as county staff described the existing handicap ramp as difficult to navigate, and $115,000 effort to restore aging and damaged windows.

The city of Roswell is requesting $3.5 million to continue repairs of city-owned hangars at the Roswell International Air Center. The amount and details of the applications drew the criticism of some legislators. In response, city Planning Manager Bill Morris said that the city was aware that funding might not be possible and that the city is looking into many different possible revenue sources to continue work on what is envisioned as a “regional economic development site.”

Other Roswell requests included a roads improvement and a bridge replacement project for $1 million each, a $750,000 project to install large water values on South Main Street and Garden Avenue and Berrendo Road, and continued work to improve the roads in South Park Cemetery for $150,000.

Dexter requested $275,000 for new floating docks at Lake Van and $250,000 to resurface city streets. Hagerman has asked for $1 million for a water transmission line, $500,000 for sewer lines, $195,000 for sidewalk and gutter improvements and $65,000 to create a walking path in its existing sports complex.

Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell made three requests, all involving vehicles. A $63,096 request is to purchase two sports utility vehicle, a $41,058 request for two pick-ups and a $21,435 application for a lawnmower. The Veterans Transportation Network also is seeking a new vehicle, making an application for two handicapped-accessible vans for $100,000.

New Mexico Senior Olympics submitted three funding applications. It is asking for $295,000 to renovate office space, $50,000 for a mini-van and $60,000 to make 25 sports training films.

Legislation for the 2018 session can be filed starting Dec. 15. The session is scheduled to open Jan. 16 and close Feb. 15.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.