AZTEC — City commissioners today will study the possibility of restoring impact fees that pay for the infrastructure supporting new development.

If developers do not pay for those projects, which include sewer, water and other utilities, they are not built or the costs fall to taxpayers.

Some city officials say it is a matter of long-term financial stability. The issue is scheduled for discussion during an evening work session before the regularly scheduled commission meeting.

In New Mexico, fees can be imposed only by unanimous vote of a county commission like Aztec's for road, water, sewer, storm-water, park and public-safety projects. The fees are only to be used on new capital improvement projects. And a 2001 state law specifically gave local governments the option of waiving impact fees for affordable housing projects.

"New fees (for) developers would provide for long-term growth of the utility infrastructure," City Manager Josh Ray said. "They (previous commissioners) initially removed these fees to assist developers during the downturn in the economy."

While money raised through impact fees can go toward new projects — playground equipment, trails or parks, for example — using the money for maintenance of existing equipment is prohibited by state statute.

And the city has a deadline of seven years to spend the money, which makes funding large, multi-year utilities projects like water or sewer construction difficult.

In 2008, commissioners issued a moratorium on fees for the year to evaluate their use. Also considered was whether such fees were discouraging local development in a weak economy.

The following year, commissioners looked at the connection between fees and specific utilities. That resulted in the elimination of all impact fees except those designated for parks projects.

A half-decade later, the situation remains unchanged.

"The current commission is aware we're not collecting these fees (other than for parks projects)," said Kathy Lamb, the city's finance director. "We have needs for the funding. The workshop will address that and ask primarily what direction commissioners would like to go."

Mayor Pro-tem Jim Crowley requested the workshop discussion and wants to see the city restore the fees.

"My hope is that the city looks at this and gets back in line with what other cities are taking in," Crowley said. "We can do it a responsible way that captures the costs while being very reasonable compared to what other cities assess."

More information:

What: Aztec Commission Workshop (to explore impact and development fees)

When: 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Where: Aztec City Hall, 201 W. Chaco St.

More info: 505-334-7603

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