Commission votes 3-2 in favor of purchase

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AZTEC — The Aztec City Commission narrowly approved purchasing the building at the intersection of South Church Street and East Chuska Street during a crowded meeting tonight.

The commission voted 3-2 in favor of buying the property for $135,000 from the Aztec Presbyterian Church.

The building houses the business incubator, or HUB. It houses the Aztec Chamber of Commerce and provides community meeting space as well as assistance for people starting up businesses.

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Aztec Mayor Sally Burbridge said there will be people who support the city's decision and people who are disappointed with the choice.

"This has been a tough decision," she said.

While the commissioners agreed it was a difficult choice to make, the City Commission had previously discussed the purchase during a work session last week and during a closed meeting on Monday.

"This has been something that we've discussed," said Commissioner Austin Randall. "We’ve carefully considered it. We've looked at every option possible."

Randall and Commissioner Katee McClure cast the votes against purchasing the building due to the financial impact it would have on the city. In addition to the building's cost, the city will have to pay for building upgrades to meet codes, additional staffing, marketing and signs. The total cost is estimated at $235,000. The city had not included the purchase and other costs in the fiscal year 2018 budget. 

Four Corners Economic Development CEO Warren Unsicker urged commissioners to purchase the building.

"It would be a shame to lose such a valuable asset to the community," he said.

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Commissioner Sheri Rogers said she had initially planned on voting against the purchase but changed her mind after hearing comments from community members who described it as a valuable gathering place.

"It's going to be important for people to stand behind what they're saying," Rogers said.

Commissioner Sherri Sipe said the HUB is important because it could help the city in the long run.

"We keep talking about diversifying," she said.

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Sipe said if the city does not do something now to diversify the economy, in a decade Aztec will be in the same situation it is in now with the dependence on the oil and natural gas industries.

Mike Paschall, one of the owners of 550 Brewing, said he was pleased with the city's decision. 550 Brewing is one of the tenants that operates out of the HUB. 

"I think we need another year to make (the brewery) even better," Paschall said.

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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