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Water utility plans upgrades in face of fiscal uncertainty

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A Hagerman-area water utility is moving forward with its plans to improve its water delivery system, although state funding remains uncertain due to a change in the economic situation in recent months.

The Fambrough Mutual Domestic Water Consumers Association was provided $170,000 in capital outlay funding by the 2020 New Mexico Legislature, an allocation approved by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in March.

However, Lujan Grisham and many legislators have acknowledged the need for a special legislative session to reexamine the approved fiscal year 2021 budget, given the plunge in oil prices since the beginning of the year, as well as the economic repercussions from the coronavirus emergency.

Ray Juarez, president of the board of directors for Fambrough Mutual, said he doesn’t know what might happen with the allocation, but the group is moving forward with asking for proposals from engineering firms to begin planning for a new project.

The $170,000 provided by the Legislature was intended for the purchase and installation of new water meters for the group’s customers, which number about 175, Juarez said.

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“Ours are all old, brittle and breaking,” he said. “We need to get them replaced.”

Juarez did not give a definitive time for when an engineering firm might be selected, but said some of that will depend on when board members are allowed to meet again. The proposal submissions are due by noon on April 30.

The water group originally talked with legislators before the January legislative session about asking for several different project totaling $2.89 million so that it could significantly expand service and capacity. But area legislators recommended that the group scale back until additional planning had occurred.

Juarez said that the water utility — which operates with only a couple of staff and a volunteer board of directors — has about 30 people in the Fambrough area on a waiting list who want to be connected, but that will take some time.

“We are trying our best to maintain (what we have) and to get water rights and water lines to help other people on the waiting list,” he said. “But we need water rights and water lines to do that.”

Juarez described Fambrough as an area just outside the town of Hagerman where most property consists of five acres or more.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

 

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