Legislative Roundup: Capital outlay requests include all-abilities, Gateway iconic parks

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — A railroad from Farmington to Gallup could provide new economic opportunities for San Juan, McKinley and Cibola counties as well as Navajo Nation and the entire Four Corners region, according to a fiscal impact report for a proposed study.

A bipartisan coalition of four members of the state House of Representatives and one state senator has sponsored a bill that would provide the New Mexico Economic Development Department with $500,000 to study the cost and potential economic benefit of building a railroad, which would start near Navajo Agricultural Products Industry south of Farmington and connect with the intercontinental railroad in the Gallup area.

These legislators include Rep. Abbas Akhil, D-Albuquerque, Rep. Anthony Allison, D-Fruitland, Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, Rep. James Strickler, R-Farmington, and Sen. Shannon Pinto, D-Tohatchi.

The bill received a unanimous do pass recommendation from its first committee — the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee — on Jan. 31. 

More: As San Juan County looks for ways to diversify its economy, rail remains a priority

Capital outlay projects requested

Local governments and school districts throughout the state had to submit their requests for capital outlay funds by Feb. 2. San Juan County entities have sought millions of dollars in funding for a total of 48 projects.

With those requests in, the legislators will choose which ones they want to fund with a limited pot of money. The boom in the Permian Basin has provided the state with more funding for these capital outlay projects than just a couple of years ago. But many of the requests will likely go unfunded.

Some of these projects are based on needs identified years ago, like Bloomfield’s request for $1.5 million for its water reclamation facility and for another $2.5 million for the East Blanco Boulevard bridge replacement project.

More:Bloomfield prepares to replace part of 42-year-old water reclamation facility

Chris Casey, left, spins Parker Vela, 4, center, and Logan DiGiacomo on Friday March 18, 2016, at Riverside Park in Aztec. In back is Noelle Vela.

Other requests reflect the recent push to develop outdoor recreation assets and transform the community. These include $995,000 for developing recreational amenities along the Animas River from Riverside Park to the Townsend Wildlife Nature Refuge and $2.6 million to construct an all-abilities park in Farmington.

More:Public feedback sought for new design of 'iconic' park near Farmington Museum

The City of Farmington has also requested $3 million for Farmington’s Gateway Park project, known as the iconic park.

More:Farmington council ponders creation of all-abilities park

Other requests build on the success of previous efforts. The City of Aztec has used capital outlay funding to construct its East Aztec Arterial Route. This route is intended to redirect heavy truck traffic away from downtown and allow Aztec to take ownership of Main Avenue from the New Mexico Department of Transportation.

With funding in place for the final section of the route, Aztec has requested $4 million to renovate its downtown. The plans for Main Avenue are similar to the current Complete Streets project underway in Farmington. Like Farmington, Aztec hopes to reduce the number of lanes to create a more pedestrian and bike-friendly environment.

More:Aztec moves closer to downtown revitalization plan

Another request that builds on previous successful capital outlay requests is San Juan County’s request for $500,000 for its planned film studio. Last year the county received $1 million for the project.

More:A new act: San Juan County signs grant agreement for future film studio

Most dollars requested for a San Juan County project: The City of Aztec has requested about $6.34 million in funding to acquire easements and to plan, design, construct and improve the water system as well as a water transmission line.

Fewest dollars requested for a San Juan County project: The Lake Valley Chapter has requested $25,000 to purchase heavy equipment.

Most dollars requested for a project in the state:  The largest single request is $25 million to construct a relief route from U.S. Highway 285 across the Pecos River to U.S. Highway 62/180 near Carlsbad in Eddy County.

Chris McElvain of the Nashville Knights darts across third base and scores a run against Cheyenne Post 6 during Sunday's Connie Mack World Series first-round game at Ricketts Park in Farmington.

Other notable capital outlay requests:

  • Sports Complexes:  $3.9 million for improvements at the sports complex in Aztec and $2 million for renovations at Ricketts Park in Farmington.
  • Water storage: $2 million to improve a raw water reservoir in Aztec
  • Bridges and roads: $150,000 to decommission the bridge over Largo Wash on County Road 4900, $1 million to improve County Road 8890 and $6 million for improvements to McWilliams Road in Aztec.
  • Navajo Preparatory School: $2 million to install heating, ventilation and air conditioning in Zah, Bates, Garret and Arthur halls and $800,000 to convert an administration building to a language center.
  • Public safety: $2.5 million to purchase and equip a helicopter for the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, $2 million for radio infrastructure and equipment for the county and $2 million for access and public safety improvements at San Juan College, including electronic door locks, sensors and cameras.
  • Early childhood education: $400,000 to plan, design and construct a preschool in the Red Valley Chapter of the Navajo Nation.

Sen. Neville sponsors bill outlining steps for appointing PRC members

The last day to file legislation was Feb. 5 and Sen. Steve Neville, R-Farmington, filed a bill that outlines the way New Mexico Public Regulation Commissioners could be appointed if a constitutional amendment passes in November.

Steve Neville

The bill, which would require ratification by voters as a constitutional amendment, would set up a nominating committee of seven members knowledgeable about public utility regulation who are not employed by a public utility. Four of the members would be appointed by elected officials including the speaker of the House of Representatives, the minority leader of the House of Representatives, the majority floor leader of the Senate and the minority floor leader of the Senate. The remaining three would be appointed by the presidents of the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.

This committee will send nominee's names to the governor, who will appoint them to serve as Public Regulation Commissioners.

The bill would become effective only if voters choose to amend the state constitution. 

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

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