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County celebrates finished courthouse elevator

Chaves County Manager Bill Williams talks Thursday morning about the years-long process that led to the recently completed elevator at the Chaves County Courthouse. His remarks came shortly after a ribbon-cutting by Roswell Chamber of Commerce Redcoats; County Commissioner T. Calder Ezzell Jr.; and District 58 State Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell (R-Roswell). Also attending the event were District 54 Rep. James Townsend (R-Artesia), local residents and business leaders, courthouse staff and judges, and other Chaves County employees and commissioners. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Chaves County officials dedicated the new elevator for the downtown Chaves County Courthouse on Thursday morning, a project that was more than six years in the planning.

“Now we have an elevator that is going to serve our community for decades to come,” said County Manager Bill Williams after a ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Thank you to everyone in the community that made this happen, including the people in our community who let us know how serious a need this was for our community.”

The elevator, which is enclosed inside a vestibule and is handicapped-accessible, had been requested numerous times by residents and courthouse visitors and was long recognized as a need by county officials.

Before the elevator received its certificate of occupancy on Sept. 3, most people wanting to enter the building had the choice to use either a steep, winding ramp or climb 22 stairs up to the courthouse entrance facing North Virginia Avenue. In special cases, they could call courthouse staff to allow them entry in a different way.

According to prior interviews with county officials, the state of New Mexico had required the building of the ramp when the courthouse addition was built about 2005. That didn’t leave the county with enough money to build an elevator at that time. Instead it installed a wheelchair lift, but, for several years, the lift has been bolted shut because county officials said that it did not operate safely.

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The ribbon-cutting and dedication on Thursday, held immediately after the Chaves County Board of Commissioners meeting, brought together the five county commissioners, current and former county staff, courthouse staff, local residents and business leaders, Roswell Chamber of Commerce Redcoats, Southeast New Mexico Economic Development District representatives, and State Reps. Candy Spence Ezzell (R-District 58-Roswell) and James Townsend (R-District 54-Artesia). State Sens. Greg Nibert and Cliff Pirtle, both Republicans from Roswell, also were mentioned for their efforts to obtain a state capital outlay award for the project.

The county received $450,000 from the state and about $438,000 from a Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The county also used some of its own funds for a project that was originally expected to cost only $450,000.

Hal Barnett of ASA Architects did the design, while Waide Construction Co. Inc. won the construction contract.

Williams said that, after the design was completed, it took another three years for construction to be completed as the county worked to obtain money and due to delays caused by COVID-related construction crew and supply shortages.

Candy Spence Ezzell and Townsend said that the elevator is an example of how area legislators can advocate on behalf of a community.

“We worked on getting this funding back where it would help every person in Chaves County to have the access that is so greatly needed,” said Ezzell.

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.