Residents air concerns about Aztec issues

Hannah Grover
Donnie Snell putts Nov. 3 while playing a round at the Hidden Valley Golf Course in Aztec.

AZTEC – Aztec residents voiced concerns about issues like economic development and the management of the municipal golf course during a community meeting Wednesday night at City Hall.

Robert Cudd expressed concern to City Manager Josh Ray and city commissioners about a recent deal the city made to install water and electric utilities on property that may be developed into an O'Reilly's Auto Parts location.

"The businesses in this downturn are not doing well," he said.

He said he does not believe the city has enough demand for another auto parts store.

Commissioners Katee McClure and Roberta Locke both admitted during the meeting that they regret voting in favor of the infrastructure development and would like to find a way to get out of the contract. McClure said she already has discussed that possibility with Ray and the city attorney, and she said the only way for the city to get out of the deal would be if the developer does not start work on the project within a specific time frame.

Commissioner Sherri Sipe said the city approved the contract as a way to attract business.

"It's a no-win situation," Sipe said. "If we turn down business, then we're not business friendly."

Another controversial issue was whether the city should continue managing the Hidden Valley Golf Course, which ended 2016 with about $95,000 deficit. Supporters have argued that the golf course is a quality-of-life service, like parks, and its purpose is not solely to generate money.

Aztec resident Malissa McClelland argued that the golf course is not like a park because people have to pay to use it.

"It cannot be categorized as a public park unless the public has free access to it," she said.

Locke also pointed out that the golf course is paid for out of the enterprise fund rather than the parks fund. Mayor Sally Burbridge explained that the enterprise fund includes things like utilities.

"The intent is that those items run at a profit ... those are the business side of city government," she said, adding that the golf course is not funded by taxpayer money.

Improvements made to the course encouraged Vangie Neil, Aztec Chamber of Commerce vice president, to argue in favor of it.

"The greens are amazing," she said. "They're beautiful. There's flowers. I mean, this place has got a second life."

Theresa Bailey, the general manager of Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham and the chamber of commerce president, said the hotel already has 10 rooms booked for a tournament at the course in June.

Another issue raised multiple times during the meeting was the August 2015 flooding. Burbridge said contractors will start work on planned drainage studies next week, and that will help the city evaluate what work needs to be done to mitigate for future floods.

Charliss Jones, a resident of the Kokopelli subdivision, said the flooding is not a new issue and is something the city has been dealing with for years.

"We have to do our part, too... I don't believe it's totally up to the city to take care of if I get flooded," she said.

Sipe said the city will also have to re-evaluate its subdivision plan to ensure that future developments are not built in areas prone to flooding.

"That wash may not have run for 50 years, but I can almost guarantee you that on that 51st year, it's going to run," she said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.