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AZTEC — City commissioners Tuesday night approved a measure authorizing city officials to enter into negotiations with a local property owner in hopes of eventually transforming a building into a business incubator.

The incubator would "operate as a stimulus for our local economy," City Manager Joshua Ray told commissioners during the meeting.

The city hopes the incubator will help entrepreneurs start businesses. In addition to providing office space for new businesses or people from out of town who do business in Aztec, the building also would serve as a home for the Chamber of Commerce.

Commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of entering into negotiations and performing an appraisal on the property at 119 Chuska St.

Commissioner Roberta Locke expressed concern about the cost of making improvements to the building.

While the property owner will accept improvements to the property in lieu of rent, the city will have to purchase equipment such as furniture, as well as repair the building itself. Locke cited damage to the building from the Aug. 26 flood as a cause for concern.

"Do we need to start another venture, another project, when some of these people are going through this for the second time?" Locke said.

Many of the town's homes that were damaged by flooding last month were also damaged by a storm in 2013, and city officials are looking for ways to address the problems that have led to the flooding.

While the Aug. 26 storm did major damage, there has been more flooding since then, including during a storm on Tuesday. Commissioner Katee McClure said she was working on Rio Grande Avenue Tuesday and said the road became a river. Fearing more flood damage, members of the city staff and police officers delivered sand bags to some residents on Tuesday.

In light of the flooding episodes, the city is looking at the projects it has planned and is trying to decide where it can reallocate money.

That money would be used to help fund hydrological studies. In addition to helping city officials understand the flow of water during storms, the studies also could help the city assess what types of drainage systems are needed to deal with flood waters during normal storms.

The city currently has two hydrological studies out to bid. These studies call for examining the Blanco Arroyo and the Hampton Arroyo, which goes through Kokopelli subdivision.

The price tag for the studies is unknown, but an estimate from 2013 states that it could cost anywhere from $200,000 to $300,000 to study the Hampton Arroyo, Ray said.

While the commissioners voted in favor of beginning negotiations for the business incubator, that does not mean that the city will necessarily enter into a lease agreement on the property.

Instead, after an appraisal has been completed and negotiations done, the commission would vote on an agreement.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.

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