AZTEC — On Tuesday, city commissioners approved a $60,000 grant application to the Youth Conservation Corps to pay for upgrades to Florence Park.

If the funding request is granted, the city will match the grant with about $70,000 from the fiscal year 2015 budget. The money will cover the cost of a hired coordinator position, city staff labor and materials and supplies.

The summer work next year will center on Florence Park, which has tennis courts and a playground area, and is located near the corner of Ruins Road and Aztec Boulevard.

From left, Logan Castleman, Jackson Doom and Dana Standridge with the Youth Conservation Corps of Aztec work June 11, 2013, on painting a mural under the
From left, Logan Castleman, Jackson Doom and Dana Standridge with the Youth Conservation Corps of Aztec work June 11, 2013, on painting a mural under the Money-Saving Bridge in Aztec. (The Daily Times file photo)

About a dozen crew members will remove and replace the park's pavilion, playground, tennis court screening and 920 feet of post-and-cable fencing. Aztec High School fine arts students who successfully apply for Youth Conservation Corps work will be nearby under the "Money-Saving Bridge" — the 1920s bridge that carries traffic over the Animas River and connects Chaco Street with U.S. Highway 516 — removing graffiti and painting a new mural on one of the bridge's pylons.

Each year, Aztec Projects Manager Ed Kotyk prioritizes city projects and helps write the YCC application. He also oversees the corps' projects throughout the summer months.

This summer, 20 YCC workers are making $160,000 worth of improvements to Hartman Park. Projects there include installing a retaining wall and post-and-cable fencing, painting a dugout, concession stand, storage house and the park's pavilion and constructing a mortar wall sign at the park's entrance.

"It will be a smaller crew than in the past," Kotyk said. "With the city focusing more on day-to-day operations and less on bigger projects, we can't spend as much on improvements. Florence Park is smaller. With YCC funding, we can make progress there."

Kotyk has been at the park this week working with a YCC crew to construct a new rock wall sign, passing along masonry skills he says he learned when he began building similar rock wall signs for the city.

"Working on the wall through next week with a crew, I can pass along what I've learned with masonry work in the process," Kotyk said.

YCC crews are expected to complete work in Hartman Park in August, he said.

YCC is an independent commission that receives administrative help from the state's Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. The program provides employment for young people, ages 14 to 25, in public projects.

Participants gain experience and learn work skills and teamwork. Returning corps members are eligible for a $500 cash bonus or $1,500 college tuition voucher.

About $4 million is available for YCC projects statewide next year. Aztec has received funding from the youth-based employment program for 11 consecutive years.

Hiring for 12 crew positions will begin in May 2015. For more information, call 505-334-7606 or go to www.emnrd.state.nm.us/YCC.

James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621 and jfenton@daily-times.com. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.