FARMINGTON — City Council members and Mayor Tommy Roberts are looking forward to making improvements to the city in 2013, but flagging revenues could create significant challenges, they say.

The most significant will be balancing the city's budget and creating the budget for fiscal year 2014.

Farmington experienced six months of general-fund-revenue collection that was below what was expected, Roberts said.

"It's manageable at this time, but with several months of falling numbers, we have to be prepared to deal with a number of different contingencies," he said. "I have some hope that we'll see our numbers stabilize and that we'll even see some growth. The key is revenue. If we're experiencing declining revenue, it limits the kinds of things we can do."

For Roberts, an important issue will be whether to increase the city's electric-generation capacity.

"We'll be taking up that decision in the first few months of 2013," he said.

And officials are beginning to talk about raising water rates to cover the cost of replacing the city's aging water lines, he said.

About 60 to 70 miles of cast iron pipes installed during the 1950s remain. Replacement costs add up to about $773,000 per mile.

Another expensive project is the approximately $19 million Pinon Hills bridge extension, he said.

If the city cannot secure funding from federal or state governments, alternatives include issuing bonds to fund the project or allowing the community to vote on whether to raise the city's gross receipts tax rate in order to cover the cost.


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Councilwoman Gayla McCulloch echoed Roberts' concern over the economy.

"With the current economic and regulatory environment, we're going to have to be vigilant," she said. "Hopefully we'll see a little uptake with (gross-receipts-tax revenue)."

In spite of the uncertain economy, McCulloch said it is still important to remain positive.

"I'm just going to go slow and steady and remain optimistic," she said. "It's hard to think of growing, but I'm hoping we can maintain (our services)."

Other important issues, she said, include whether the state will repeal hold-harmless payments, provide funding requested by the city in fall 2012 for projects such as the Pinon Hills project, and to complete the new animal shelter.

McCulloch also looks forward to working with Four Corners Economic Development, which is in the process of finding an executive director.

"I hope the city can continue to contribute at the maximum level," she said. "We need to try and diversify the economy."

Councilman Jason Sandel expressed similar concerns over the economy, along with some frustration over the city's lack of action.

"The clear priority and issue is that it's apparent that the budget is going to be overspent," he said. "I've offered several different plans. It's disappointing that I haven't been able to get the majority of council to understand the dire times."

His priorities will be to find funding for the Pinon Hills project, annex the Crouch Mesa area, expand natural-gas power generation and come up with a solution to improve Four Corners Regional Airport.

"My sense is that the leadership inside the city is not willing to take on the challenge," Sandel said. "This is most effectively demonstrated in the strategic planning process where we spent three-quarters of the day talking about past accomplishments."

Councilman Dan Darnell said it will be hard for the city to maintain its level of services because of a poor economy coupled with employee reductions.

"We've decreased our workforce through attrition," he said. "Thank God we didn't have to lay anyone off."

City employees are being asked to take on more and more tasks, he said.

Public safety, community safety, supporting early childhood development, parenting and financial literacy will also be top priorities for Darnell.

Other challenges include ensuring that there is adequate housing available for a potential population influx if there is a regional oil-and-gas production boom, and stimulating tourism.

"We need to be pushing for a lot more than residual tourism," Darnell said. "There's more things that can put us on the map."

Councilwoman Mary Fischer said one of the biggest issues facing city operations is employee morale.

"The employees are so between a rock and a hard place," she said. "Morale is the worst that I have ever seen it. I have spent my entire Christmas vacation fielding calls from employees."

Fischer said part of the overall problem on the city council is Roberts' attitude toward transparency.

"Tommy's idea of transparency is chocolate milk," she said. "It's a very tenuous time to be an elected official."

The city's politics and decision-making process is transparent, Roberts said.

"Everybody has an opportunity to advocate for their ideas," he said. "I make a concerted effort to provide that opportunity to all members of the elected body. I don't lobby members of council to embrace my views outside of meetings. I lobby my fellow elected officials in public."

Darnell says he is happy to be working with Roberts and the rest of the council.

"We all have our own opinions," he said. "We're all trying to do the right thing. The minute you start throwing stones ... my opinion is no better than anyone else's. I respect the folks I'm working with. I won't always agree with them, but that's OK. You need all those people. I need to hear those other viewpoints."