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Bloomfield seeks residents' help to face challenges
Meeting covers planned projects, lack of funding
BLOOMFIELD — Bloomfield officials are telling residents the city has some challenges ahead of it and will need their help.
City Councilors Ken Hare, Sue Finch and Matt Pennington,and Mayor Cynthia Atencio met with more than 50 people Thursday to discuss the financial condition of the city and some of the challenges it will face in the future.
Atencio said the meeting is part of the council’s effort to increase transparency.
The city will be creating several advisory committees and is asking residents to volunteer to serve on those committees.
City has limited ability to borrow money
One of the biggest challenges ahead of Bloomfield is its finances. Bloomfield does not project any increase in gross receipts tax revenue in the upcoming fiscal year.
The city has a limited ability to borrow money and has several large infrastructure projects that it needs to complete.
Bloomfield owes about $16 million, and about 12 percent of its budget goes to debt payments.
In the general fund, the city can borrow only $460,000.
Bloomfield could take out a general obligation bond of $5.7 million, which would increase property tax and would have to be approved by voters.
In the utility fund, the city can only afford an additional $127,000 a year in debt payments. Hare said the city finance director calculated that the city could take out a 20-year loan with a 3 percent interest rate of $1.6 million.
That may be enough to pay for the city’s top priority infrastructure project — replacing the water storage tank in north Bloomfield. That project is estimated to cost $1.68 million.
But the city would not be able to borrow to pay for its second priority project — the $11 million replacement of the wastewater treatment plant.
City owes Bloomfield Irrigation District
Another challenge the city faces is a dispute it faces with the entity that serves as the source of its its drinking water.
“We owe (the Bloomfield Irrigation District) slightly over $300,000,” Hare said. “I think there just hasn’t been dialogue. We started dialogue with BID, and we’re very confident that we can reach a reasonable agreement."
The city was paying 7 cents per thousand gallons when the ditch company canceled the contract in 2016 and raised the rates to 50 cents per thousand gallons.
Bloomfield refused to pay the additional 43 cents per thousand gallons and disputed the ditch company’s legal ability to cancel the contract and raise rates.
“It doesn’t make much sense to me to sue ourselves because not only is it our drinking water, most of us get ... our irrigation water, garden water and everything out of the BID,” Hare said.
Hare explained that BID members are also members of the Bloomfield community. He said many Bloomfield residents rely on the ditch for irrigation water. Because of those ties, Hare said suing the ditch company would be like suing themselves.
Waterline needs repairs
Bloomfield can also ask Aztec for water if something happens that cuts off its water supply from the ditch.
However, the water line connecting the two cities has problems with rust. The pipeline is Bloomfield’s fourth-highest priority project.
“Both Aztec and Bloomfield somehow forgot to turn on the (rust-inhibiting) cathodic protection, so we’re spending about $50,000 a year replacing rusted-out pipe with PVC pipe,” Hare said.
He said that will likely be a bigger issue for Aztec than for Bloomfield this year. Aztec receives its drinking water from the Animas River, which has much less water this year than normal. If the water level in the Animas River reach a point that Aztec cannot get enough drinking water, Bloomfield can send water to Aztec.
“We’re kind of lucky here. We’re on the San Juan and because of the minnows we get more water,” Hare said referencing the fact that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation releases water from Navajo Dam into the San Juan River when needed to help endangered fish like the Colorado pikeminnow.
Hare said he does not anticipate the city seeing a huge growth in population in the near future, nor does he think a major industry will locate in Bloomfield. He cautioned that the city could see more people moving away.
Hare said he believes the future of Bloomfield will be small businesses and micro-businesses.
City asks for help
One area that the city frequently hears complaints about is the maintenance of parks, especially of the sports fields. Hare said there are four employees in the parks and recreation department, and they cannot keep up with all of the maintenance that is required.
“I think we in this room have to step up and adopt a median or something else to ease the strain,” he said.
Pennington said one of the greatest strengths of the community is its residents.
“We’re best together, especially when the chips are down,” he said.
He reiterated the city’s need for residents to help out.
“I wish there was someone else we could go to and we didn’t have to pull you guys into this and ask more of you, but we have to,” Pennington said.
He said people also can help by attending City Council meetings, and giving the councilors feedback and suggestions.
“It takes you guys working together with us to do the best we can for our citizens, our employees and our business owners,” Atencio said.
People interested in helping can call City Hall at 505-632-6300.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.