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Residents, county officials discuss capital priorities

Chaves County Manager Bill Williams says a funding priority is to provide water systems for county volunteer fire departments. (Daily Record File Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

County residents want state funding for better flood-control efforts, a county landfill, a wider bridge on West Brasher Road and removal of condemned structures on South Main Street.

The Chaves County Board of Commissioners held its annual public hearing for its 2023-2027 Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan on Thursday during its regular monthly meeting, and four residents took the opportunity to talk about what they think the county priorities should be.

Any state funding provided by the 2022 New Mexico legislative session would be for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

“It is a state requirement that we seek public input for the Chaves County Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan, also known as ICIP,” said Community Development Project Specialist Georgianna Hunt. “We do appreciate county input and some of the things that we have done based on public input is the installation of the handicapped elevator that is going to be opening soon at the county courthouse, the historic county courthouse. That is a good example of hearing public comment about an improvement that needed to be made.”

The state requires the county and other governmental and publicly funded entities to update its ICIP each year to indicate the state funding requests they intend to make.

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County commissioners, county employees and eligible nonprofits that might want to use the county as the fiscal agent for awards will work to update the list over the next month, with the commissioners expected to identify their top five priorities by August so that the list can be sent to the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration for its review.

In November and December, area legislators typically hold public hearings prior to the legislative session to discuss the ICIP funding priorities.

A county landfill to serve residents in unincorporated areas of the county as well as Dexter, Lake Arthur and Hagerman was one of the ideas receiving the most vocal support on Thursday.

Two county residents said they are interested in creating community support for the idea, while Commission Chair Will Cavin called it a “possibility and a probability.” County Manager Bill Williams said he believes that the landfill needs to be created as a long-term solution to the growing amount of waste in the county and so that the county would not have to depend as much as it does now on the city of Roswell landfill.

None of the details about the project, such as its location, cost or years needed for development, have been determined yet.

Charles Garlinger appears at the Thursday meeting of the Chaves County Board of Commissioners to urge state funding to improve flood-control efforts. (Submitted Photo)

Another resident, Charles Garlinger, said his property on West Hobson Road gets flooded about every 10 years — including three times in recent months — and he would like to see the county address that issue.

“I say the government needs to cough up the money to make the Hondo River bed bigger and deeper all the way out to Twin (River) Dams to cover the amount of water that comes out of the dams whenever you get a heavy rain out of the mountains,” he said. “It’s time for that thing to be widened.”

Larry Connolly suggested the county ask for $300,000 or more to pay to remove structures along South Main Street that already have been condemned by the county. He said he also supports a project that has been on the ICIP for a couple of years, the widening of a West Brasher Road bridge near the city landfill and several industrial sites.

Roswell City Councilor Barry Foster also expressed support for the bridge widening, and Sheriff Mike Herrington said accidents do occur there, including one that involved a deputy.

The bridge project has been supported by area legislators in past years, but has not been made it all the way through the funding process.

Cavin also mentioned infrastructure funding for the Roswell Air Center.

The county received $5 million for that in 2020, and the money is being used for site work for the planned Ascent Aviation Services hangar and for a water line on the southeast side of the airfield. But Cavin said the county would wait to get city approval for any future funding request, since some city councilors and Mayor Dennis Kintigh objected to the county receiving funding for the Air Center, which is owned by the city.

“That may be something we put on there, but we will make sure we that we have the blessing of the city council before we proceed with that,” Cavin said.

Williams said the bridge widening will be a priority. He also said that the county will request funding for wells, water storage tanks or water distribution equipment for volunteer fire departments that serve the Boothill area of the county.

A regional events center is also planned.

“It may be be some time off in the future,” Williams said, “but, as you all know, unless it is on our ICIP we cannot ask for funding or accept funding. … There is a big interest in that out in our community, and I believe we can all work together well on that.”

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.