BLOOMFIELD — City council on Monday night approved a plan redirecting about $300,000 originally intended for construction of a water-storage tower to automate the city's water system.

Funding for the tower project totaled more than $1 million with a 2010 grant for $800,000 from the New Mexico Water Trust Board and a $220,000 loan from the state's finance authority.

But the city never went ahead with the tower, though a majority of the money went to various water-related projects.

"We didn't have all the money we needed to build the tower," City Manager David Fuqua said. "Just to get the design done would have cost over $325,000, so we didn't do it."

Mayor Scott Eckstein sees the change as a way to wisely spend city dollars on a needed project.

"With the tower, it became clear that we simply have to prioritize what we want to accomplish," Eckstein said. "The city always has to balance the cost and the benefit."

Now the city will aim its sights on automating its current water meter-reading system.

The technology is one more step toward increasing efficiency and providing reliable water to Bloomfield, Fuqua said.

"The change of scope is only to go from the tower to the automated meter-reading system," Fuqua said. "The only condition placed on us for the amendment was that the change be a water project."

The city will have to get approval from the water board for the amendment to spend the roughly $300,000 remaining for the meters.

If remaining funds are not used, they will revert back to the state on May 1. The city hopes to complete the grant process by then to secure the money.

Council unanimously approved spending the money on the automated system, citing the efficiency as a compelling reason.

"It's the best choice we have right now with the leftover funding," Fuqua said.

"The meters are going to automate the water system and save us money and manpower over time."

James Fenton can be reached at jfenton@daily-times.com; 564-4621. Follow him on Twitter @fentondt.