San Juan County seeks capital outlay money for film studio

Requests also include water system infrastructure, trails

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
Film crew members work on the set of the movie, The Reach" along South Auburn Avenue in Farmington on Oct. 1, 2013.

AZTEC — San Juan County officials plan to ask the state Legislature for $1 million to create a new film studio.

County Commission Chairman Jack Fortner suggested making a film studio the top-priority project for capital outlay requests because of its potential for economic development.

Actor Michael Douglas is seen during the filming of "The Reach" on Oct. 1, 2013, on North Behrend Avenue in downtown Farmington.

The County Commission met Thursday evening in Aztec and outlined four requests to submit to the state Legislature for funding.

Jack Fortner

Fortner said prior to the election, county officials met with then U.S. Rep. and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham and discussed the possibility of building a film studio in San Juan County. Lujan Grisham was elected to November and was inaugurated earlier this week.

“There’s considerable interest to try to make San Juan County the second-most desirable spot to film movies (in New Mexico), perhaps to even hold festivals, after, of course, Albuquerque,” Fortner said.

He said Netflix opening a production facility in Albuquerque could mean filmmakers will be looking for additional places to film.

Fortner said the film studio would be outfitted for filmmakers.

Other requests include funding for water system, trails

In addition to requesting money for a film studio, the commission chose to request money to connect a small subdivision between Aztec and La Plata with the North Star Mutual Domestic Water Users Association’s infrastructure. East Culpepper Flats currently has water hauled to it on a regular basis and stored in a tank for the residents to use. The county is asking for money to build a pipeline connecting it to water infrastructure.

When the Legislature reallocated capital outlay money in San Juan County in 2017, the East Culpepper Flats project received some of those funds. This helped pay for project designs.

“It’s actually a shovel-ready project,” County Manager Mike Stark said. “That’s a project that can happen.”

Stark said the project has been one of the county’s top priorities for years because it lays the groundwork for connecting several water utilities. Stark said in the future East Culpepper could connect to the Upper La Plata infrastructure, as well.

The other two projects the County Commission approved would add to outdoor recreation assets.

Those projects include completing the Kirtland walk path, which is currently in phase one. The walk path ultimately will connect Kirtland Elementary School, Kirtland Central High School and the former Ruth N. Bond Elementary School.

The final project the county is asking for funding to complete is a bike path connecting Farmington and Aztec.

Fortner said the new trails could help with tourism.

Navajo Nation approved list of legislative priorities

For the Navajo Nation, the tribal council's Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee approved in November a list of legislative priorities for the state Legislature.

The 29 items include capital outlay, the tribal infrastructure fund, public safety, education, the state budget, water and water rights, gaming, energy and natural resources, roads, sexual assault prevention, health care and economic development.

"The Navajo Nation finds it in the best interest of the Navajo people to support the approval and adoption of the legislative priorities of the Navajo Nation relating to the state of New Mexico," the committee's resolution states.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at

Navajo Nation reporter Noel Lyn Smith contributed to this story.