The Doña Ana County Board of Commissioners, in a 5-0 vote, approved a measure declaring its support for the Center for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation. It also pledged to work with Luna County on planning. CITE is proposed mostly in Luna County, though an access road would be in Doña Ana County, officials said.
Newly installed Commissioner Wayne Hancock initially had reservations about the measure. He said that was partly because of the project's history in Hobbs and Las Cruces and different company names on documents presented to the commission.
"I don't have enough information to say it's a good idea," he said, after highlighting his background in business. "On a surface level, an economic development level, anything is a good idea that brings jobs to our counties."
In particular, a memo was signed between Luna County and CITE Development LLC. But an earlier memo signed between the state economic development was between Pegasus Global LLC. Hancock said there should be a formal document showing the link between the two.
David Medeiros, a county attorney, said the legal department hasn't done background research on the companies themselves. But Tuesday's item wasn't a legally binding document.
"We're not entering into a legal relationship by passing this resolution today," he said.
County Commission Chairwoman Karen Perez, who was re-elected Tuesday by her peers to lead the commission, noted that the 2011 agreement with the state denoted Pegasus Global LLC's intent to create CITE.
Kuenstler told the commission that CITE Development LLC is a subsidiary to Pegasus Global LLC. And CITE is the entity actually carrying out the work toward building the project.
However, Kuenstler said she shared Hancock's skepticism.
"We are proceeding cautiously, very cautiously and optimistic," she said. "I have studied ... what went wrong in Lea County."
Continued Kuenstler: "And so we're attempting to cross our "t's" dot and our "i's" and proceed as if this is a viable project, because we'd hate not to and it end up somewhere else."
Hancock eventually voted in favor of the resolution.
"I think with the understanding that Doña Ana County is not endorsing some sort of an investment scheme or some sort of an economic engine that we don't know what it is, I think we can move forward on this," he said.
The resolution was approved alongside other items on the county's consent agenda.
Pegasus officials have said they plan to build an average American city aimed at testing technologies in the realms of smart grids, transportation and water. It would create about 350 direct jobs and more indirect jobs, the company says.
A location in Doña Ana County had been in the running for CITE, when the company instead selected a parcel in Lea County, near Hobbs, last July. Within weeks, the company had backed out of that deal, saying problems had cropped up with the proposed land.
In early December, a location south of Interstate 10 between Deming and Las Cruces was selected by Pegasus Global Holdings for the mock city.
The facility would be mainly in Luna County, but a private access road could be in located in Doña Ana County, according to county documents.
Diana Alba Soular can be reached at (575) 541-5443; follow her on Twitter @AlbaSoular