Last year is history, but it left the Four Corners with unfinished business that will shape the New Year.
We have reported some hopeful signs for the lagging local economy. Oil wells drilled recently in the Lybrook area are showing promising productivity that could inject new life into the oil and gas industry. Encana and WPX Energy have said they intend to invest millions this year that could kick off increased drilling activity in the Mancos Shale formation.
Some are hopeful that this could jump start the local economy. Few expect miracles, but reversing the trend would be welcome.
Ray Hagerman of Four Corners Economic Development has talked about increasing manufacturing in the area. Gov. Susana Martinez and some of her cabinet members have said bringing manufacturing to New Mexico will be a priority and are finding funds to encourage that type of activity.
Support for new manufacturing businesses could come from development of a rail line to Farmington. The first part of that rail line is already in the works with a planned railhead in Thoreau.
But coal also figures heavily in the area's economy, and the Navajo Nation is pinning its hopes on continued production from the Navajo Mine, which it purchased at the end of the year. With increasing restrictions on coal-fired power plants, domestic markets are expected to shrink. So, that railhead will be vital to ship coal to other countries that are expanding coal-fired power production.
With that as a jumping off point, here are some takes from Daily Times reporters on what to expect in 2014.
This week the Navajo Transitional Energy Company finalized its purchase of Navajo Mine from BHP Billiton. The tribal enterprise is set to take over operations of the mine in 2016.
"It's probably going to be a year of learning to take the reins of the business," NTEC management board chairman Steve Gundersen said.
Officials supporting the mine purchase have said it will preserve hundreds of good jobs and a revenue stream for the tribe.
The city of Farmington will hire a police chief early this year.
Farmington Police Chief Kyle Westall retired Tuesday after 25 years with the department. City Manager Rob Mayes will hire the next chief, but he said he will include feedback from interviews conducted by city councilors, community members and a panel. The city plans to bring in about five candidates for the panel discussion in mid-January, and the position could be filled early this year.
The $4.6 million Farmington Regional Animal Shelter will host a ribbon cutting ceremony on Jan. 10 as it continues to fill its staff positions.
BLOOMFIELD AND AZTEC
The city of Bloomfield is poised to more than double in size. City councilors approved a move to annex 6,775 acres of county land. It currently covers 5,185 acres. The expansion primarily involves land to the northeast and northwest that would extend the reach of the city toward neighboring Aztec to the north. The land includes a number of energy industry related companies that are expected to bolster the town's tax base.
Aztec has plans for a pedestrian bridge and trail system that will connect the historic downtown corridor to the Aztec Ruins National Monument by the end of this summer.
The Farmington Municipal School District will be tackling three different capital projects, including the new $62.2 million Farmington High School. Between Farmington High and the extensive renovation on Hermosa Middle School and a possible new building for Northeast Elementary School, the district is looking at nearly $100 million in capital projects. A $35 million bond election will be held on Feb. 4 which would help fund the district's share of the projects costs.
Central Consolidated School District is scheduled to start construction on a new $7.9 million campus for the Naschitti Elementary School in February. A successful $20 million bond election in August could fund a new Kirtland kindergarten through sixth grade school to replace the aging Ruth N. Bond and Grace B. Wilson elementary schools. The district is planning a mid-January public meeting to present construction options for the schools.
The Piedra Vista wrestling team is a strong contender to bring home a fourth consecutive Class 4A championship at the state tournament in late February.
The Shiprock boys' and girls' basketball teams are also aiming for deep runs in the state tournament in early March after both teams reached the semifinal round in 2013.
The Connie Mack World Series reaches its 50th anniversary in August of 2014. It is sure to be a momentous occasion when Farmington welcomes 10 of the best amateur baseball teams in the country to historic Ricketts Park. American Amateur Baseball Congress board members are hopeful of guest appearances from previous world series teams.
As health care reform gets underway, 2014 will provide the first view of the impacts of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, on individuals, companies and health care providers.
San Juan Regional Medical Center CEO Rick Wallace has spoken several times with The Daily Times about possible challenges the hospital will face with ACA implementation, including more patients choosing to utilize the emergency room for treatment because of a shrinking availability of physicians after more people seek care due to the insurance mandate. How much this usage of the emergency room increases, as well as what effect any increase will have on the hospital, should be evident within the next few months.