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Legislators hear requests for project funding

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Four state legislators, including Rep. Greg Nibert, District 59 (R-Roswell), and Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, District 58 (R-Roswell), are holding public hearings about funding requests from local governments and public service organizations. This photo is from the November 2017 public hearing in Chaves County. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Area nonprofit organizations and government entities have made their initial requests for state capital outlay funding for the 2019 legislative year, asking a bit more than $9 million for 25 projects.

The Roswell Homeless Coalition is a new player to the table, making two requests for funding for the women’s and men’s shelters.

The coalition was among the nine entities at a Tuesday meeting with area legislators held at the Chaves County Administrative Center and organized by the Southeast New Mexico Economic Development District-Council of Governments.

That group coordinates funding requests in five counties and holds public hearings in each of the counties with legislators prior to the convening of the New Mexico Legislature in January.

According to Dora Batista, executive director of the economic group, four state representatives attended the local meeting. They were Greg Nibert, District 59 (R-Roswell), Candy Spence Ezzell, District 58 (R-Roswell), James Townsend, District 54 (R-Artesia), and Phelps Anderson of Roswell. Anderson is due to become the District 66 representative as the only person running for the seat from which Bob Wooley is retiring.

The Roswell Homeless Coalition has asked for $75,000 for the women’s shelter and a planned thrift shop operation and $125,000 for the men’s shelter.

Board member Brooke Linthicum, also marketing director for Eastern New Mexico Medical Center, said that the $75,000 request is intended to make improvements to the women’s shelter on East Bland Street, including purchasing commercial kitchen appliances, repairing or replacing the roof, and creating a computer lab for residents to use for job searches, educational purposes or access to websites for needed services. The money also would be used to prepare a building to operate as a thrift store.

She explained that the nonprofit Eastern New Mexico Medical Center Auxiliary is in the process of donating its former thrift store building on East Wildy Street to the Homeless Coalition.

“That is our intent, is to be able to reopen it as a thrift shop as well as use it as a training and resource center for the clients as well,” said Linthicum.

The money for the men’s shelter is meant to provide an extensive renovation and upgrade to the building on East Albuquerque Street.

“It is a metal building that was not intended initially for a shelter,” she said. “It needs to be redesigned and renovated. We have the plans already drawn up and approved.”

The men’s shelter project also would entail a roof upgrade and a computer lab, but other improvements would be upgrades to the living areas, landscaping, the addition of a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, and the installation of a fire suppression system.

The city of Roswell has asked for the most funding, $4.25 million for five projects. That includes a $1 million request for street and sidewalk repairs, $1 million for bridge repair, and three $750,000 requests for water valve and water line replacements and improvements to the fire training center.

The town of Hagerman has submitted four requests totaling $2.5 million for sewer system improvements and sidewalk and street repairs. The town of Lake Arthur has made three requests for vehicles for a total of $560,000, while the town of Dexter has asked for $288,750 to build floating docks at Lake Van.

The Southeast New Mexico Veterans Transportation Network has asked for $100,000 for two vans, while the New Mexico Senior Olympics has submitted three requests totaling $345,000 for a van as well as for office furnishings and improvements. The Sierra Volunteer Fire Department has asked for $400,000 for a 3,000-gallon tanker.

Chaves County has made five requests for $1.63 million.

Two new requests this year include making a walking and exercise trail near and around the Chaves County Administrative Center, for a total of $350,000, and a voting machine warehouse for an estimated cost of $400,000.

Chaves County Director of Public Services Bill Williams said that the walking trail is intended as a paved trail that would loop around the administrative center at 1 St. Mary’s Place and a nearby detention pond and would include up to 10 exercise stations for various fitness routines. Stations compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements would be included.

“We want to provide additional ways for people to stay physically fit and active,” he said. “We also think that the project is a good one for the south side of Roswell, to keep this area an attractive and inviting place.”

The voting machine warehouse is needed, according to County Clerk Dave Kunko, because the county is required to keep voting machines in a locked, secure area but the existing space in the administrative center was really meant for offices or meeting space.

“The county has talked about using it for other purposes,” said County Clerk Dave Kunko, “so I just want them to know there needs to be a warehouse where we can keep the machines locked up.”

He also said that the front portion of the warehouse could be designed to be used for early voting or polling.

According to Williams, the funding requested could be used to build an addition to the administrative center or purchase or build a new building.

The county also asked again this year for $450,000 to replace windows in the historic Chaves County Courthouse, and it made two funding requests totaling $430,000 for signage and other repairs and improvements for Red Bridge Road and the bridges over the Hondo and Berrendo rivers, given that the road and bridges are now heavily used by commercial trucks passing through the city.

Williams and Linthicum both said legislators asked a lot of questions about the various funding submittals.

“They were encouraging about being able to have the funding available this year,” Williams said, “but they also wanted to make sure that what they funded is really needed and makes sense as a use for taxpayers’ money.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached by 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.