FARMINGTON — Kirtland residents may be able to host an election next spring if the state approves plans for the area to become a town.

The town of Kirtland would incorporate 337 acres of land mostly around U.S. Highway 64. That area is estimated to contain 423 people.

"It's a small start," said Mark Duncan, a resident of the area and San Juan County's treasurer.

Incorporating would allow the town to lobby for more state funding, provide zoning laws to protect businesses and refine Kirtland's identity, he said.

The New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration is assembling a team to review the petition.

From left, Mark Duncan, a Kirtland resident and the San Juan County treasurer, and Frank Coppler, with Coppler Law Firm, speak during the San Juan County
From left, Mark Duncan, a Kirtland resident and the San Juan County treasurer, and Frank Coppler, with Coppler Law Firm, speak during the San Juan County Commission meeting on Tuesday at the San Juan County Administration Building in Aztec. (Jon Austria / The Daily Times)

If the petition is approved, the county will host an election on Jan. 6 for those in the proposed incorporation area to decide whether they want to live in a town. If a majority do, they could vote for councilors, a mayor and other municipal officers in the spring. The town would begin operating in July.

Frank Coppler, an attorney representing the efforts to incorporate, said the Valley Water and Sanitation District would provide a city clerk in the meantime, as that is the only state requirement for a town of such a small size in its first year.

San Juan County's commissioners on Tuesday authorized the January election, and Farmington City Council earlier in the day approved a resolution supporting Kirtland's plans.

"There were no disadvantages to the city of Farmington," Mayor Tommy Roberts said, "so there was no reason for us to withhold our consent."

Kirtland's two forms of government are the Valley Water and Sanitation Sewer District and the Lower Valley Water Users Association.

The town of Kirtland would initially incorporate 55 businesses, including an ALCO retail chain, a Family Dollar, a 7-2-11, pawn shops and gas stations. Incorporating these businesses would allow the town to collect gross receipts taxes.

Kirtland stores like Dollar General, pictured here on Wednesday, could be incorporated into the town of Kirtland, if efforts to incorporate the town are
Kirtland stores like Dollar General, pictured here on Wednesday, could be incorporated into the town of Kirtland, if efforts to incorporate the town are successful. In its first year, officials estimate the town would earn 300,000 in gross receipts taxes. (Alexa Rogals / The Daily Times)

In its first six months, officials estimate the town would earn $25,000 to $50,000 in gross receipts taxes, Duncan said. The town is estimated to earn $300,000 in gross receipts taxes its first year and, after two years, more than $700,000 in gross receipt taxes, he said.

The town would contract with the San Juan County Communications Authority and the sheriff's office in the first year for law enforcement, according to county documents.

The county's volunteer fire department would provide fire protection, and the town would contract with the county for street maintenance and construction, according to county documents.

Waste Management, Inc. would continue to carry away trash by contract, according to county documents.

Kirtland has tried to incorporate three times now, and this attempt has so far been the most successful, Duncan said. Residents of the area still oppose the attempts, he said.

"Why is it OK for somebody to try to stop this and it's not OK for somebody to incorporate?" he said. "What's the difference?"

Some people, he said, are afraid of change.

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and dschwartz@daily-times.com. Follow him @dtdschwartz on Twitter.