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City seeks state, federal backing on waterline project

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This graphic provided by the city of Roswell shows the waterline on U.S. Highway 380.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Mayor Dennis Kintigh will seek possible federal and state reimbursement for a $3 million project to design a new waterline extending east to the Roswell Test Facility (RTF) after the City Council voted on the matter Thursday evening.

The council unanimously approved awarding the contract to Bohannan Huston Inc. (BHI), an Albuquerque-based company, for replacement of 4.2 miles of asbestos-cement (transite) waterline starting at Atkinson Avenue and extending east along U.S. Highway 380, which turns into Second Street. The line serves the RTF, Bottomless Lakes State Park and other customers.

Others who responded to the request for proposals were Souder, Miller & Associates’ Roswell office and the Albuquerque office of HDR Engineering, Inc.

City Engineer Louis Najar reminded the City Council that they voted in May on the funding for construction, and that the city has a total of 74 miles of transite line. In addition, Najar said last month the infrastructure committee voted 4-0 to approve of BHI designing the waterline.

Councilor Barry Foster asked if the state or federal government will be asked to reimburse the city for the repair, since the federal government put the line in and due to the fact that Bottomless Lakes State Park is a customer. Najar said the city is not pursuing any reimbursement at this time.

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Kintigh’s insights

Kintigh made it public in April that he had reservations about prioritizing this waterline project over other water infrastructure projects in the city. He said he had a conversation with Najar about the matter earlier on Thursday. When Foster asked if there is a reason why the city is not pursuing reimbursement, Kintigh said he would like to share his insights.

“What I intend to do is to initiate conversations through a letter to the secretary of natural minerals and natural resources at the state level,” Kintigh said. “That’s the second department overseeing parks and that’s alluding to the Bottomless Lakes State Park gets potable water from this line. I think the state should be asked to help us with this.”

Kintigh said he also intends to reach out to the congressional delegation and research whether the federal government has any responsibility.

Najar shared some background information. The RTF was commissioned in 1961 by the U.S. Department of the Interior, built from 1962-63 by Chicago Railroad and Iron, and the RTF’s dedication was on July 1, 1963. He said he assumed the Department of the Interior paid for it and is not sure when the city took over the line.

Kintigh said the effort to recoup the investment from the respective government agencies would be beneficial, though there is not reassurance it will happen. He said this action was worthy of his time and hoped that council would support him as he and staff draft the various communications.

Background information

Foster asked Najar when the state informed the city of asbestos breakthrough. Foster said the council was informed about the 74 miles of transite lines during the city’s retreat in April, but not informed about “breakthrough.”

Foster said he opposed in April allocating funds for the project because he didn’t “see this as a sudden emergency,” to use “$3 million for city water to go outside the city.”

“In May, we suddenly had $3 million that we had to spend and we had to pull it from the city, which still hurts knowing that we have repairs on our infrastructure in the city,” Foster said. “And I don’t consider this in the city, in our infrastructure.”

Foster questioned why it took eight months to bring to councilors’ attention.

Najar said in September 2017, a customer, A.O. Smith Corporate Technology Center, notified the city when the company’s testing, research and development on various appliances yielded asbestos particles in their line at the RTF. Najar said the New Mexico Environmental Department (NMED) was contacted by the A.O. Smith company.

After being notified, Najar said citywide testing on the quality of the water was conducted during the past eight months and the NMED approved the city’s proactive decision to search for any other comparable problems.

Najar said in February the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant superintendent met with NMED attorneys for groundwater and water quality. He said NMED called a meeting to allow the city an opportunity to describe the plan of action to handle the situation.

Bigger picture

Najar said NMED sent its approval in writing that the line can be left in the ground, and a new 10-inch waterline will be made. Najar said the line will have a 200 pounds per square inch (psi) rating instead of 150 psi, for safety reasons.

Councilor Judy Stubbs said it was important to note that the RTF belongs to the city and A.O. Smith has been a faithful tenant for years. Stubbs said she agreed with Foster about the amount of money being spent, but supported the measure — because the line is going to a city-owned facility and it is the right thing to do.

“Also we have to take in the big picture,” Najar said. “It’s a good thing that we have the waterline out there because we can also promote growth out there. Grant you — we don’t have a million customers out there — but we do have customers. I feel it’s our integrity and with our customer service that we have to do that right thing — to take care of our customers no matter where they’re at.”

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.