BLOOMFIELD — When it comes down to reviewing a petition to annex land, the New Mexico Municipal Boundary Commission looks at just two factors — that the parcels are contiguous to existing city limits and that services will be provided to residents and businesses on the property.
Both of those conditions were met in Bloomfield's recent annexation of 6,775 acres of San Juan County land, according to the state commission and the city of Bloomfield. The move last month doubled the size of Bloomfield, expanding the city's limits to the northeast and northwest.
In February, the city council resolved to file a petition to the commission to annex the land into city limits. The commission unanimously approved those plans in a hearing May 19 in the council chambers.
The commissions's three members — Chairwoman Janet Porter-Carrejo, Tom Olson and Mark J. Caruso — are all unpaid and appointed by the governor. They receive only a per diem by the city for travel and meals.
Olson, a semi-retired attorney in Santa Fe, was appointed to the commission in April. The Bloomfield hearing was his first one as a member of the commission.
"I'm brand new to the commission, but I think that (we) felt that Bloomfield had done a good job presenting its case," Olson said by phone on Wednesday. "It was good from my perspective. During the hearing, (city officials) had a very thorough presentation, and they were well prepared with all the exhibits, necessary signatures and testimonials that supported the annexation."
Checking whether the parcels of land in question are contiguous is a matter of geography, but getting assurances the city could deliver services took more effort.
"To check whether the land to be annexed was contiguous required only looking at maps," Olson said. "With services, there were some instances where there are questions about the city's ability to serve, but Bloomfield, it was apparent, some of the services are already there. In some cases, they are already providing water, and some sewer systems are available. Not everybody gets all municipal services, but they have the opportunity for access, and (the city) made a good showing they would."
City Manager David Fuqua was glad the city's push to expand came to fruition before what he believes will be a boom in oil production in the San Juan Basin.
"It took the better part of a year to do all of this. It was a long process," Fuqua said on Friday. "I am thankful to our staff and our attorneys who helped shepherd us through it all. I'd never done an annexation before. I learned a lot."
Olson said approval of land growth by municipalities must pass the scrutiny of the commission's members and be supported by the affected parties.
"The authority of the commission is very limited. We are basically bound by the state statute if the municipality is able to render municipal services," he said. "There was also no opposition to annexation, and I think prior to the hearing public, authorities had supported the annex, including county officials and (the Bureau of Land Management)."
Officials from Aztec, Blooomfield's neighbor to the north and the county seat, stepped back from supporting or objecting to the annexation.
"We did send a letter on the annexation," City Manager Josh Ray said in a text message on Wednesday. "We chose to be neither for it nor against (it). We expressed some concerns and some benefits with the plan."
Those concerns centered on the effects to businesses, Ray said.
Olson said his visit to Bloomfield was an eye-opener, and he noted the city's growth in the seven years since he last visited San Juan County.
"I used to think of Bloomfield as a bend in the road, but it's grown to be quite a town," Olson said. "There's a very progressive attitude by the city, I think."