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BLOOMFIELD — With the election less than two weeks away, Bloomfield City Council candidates are vying to win votes. 

While only two of the three candidates will win a seat on the City Council, candidate George Walter said there is no wrong choice this election.

Walter and his fellow candidates, David Aguirre and Tony Herrera, met with voters on Feb. 19 during an event hosted by the Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce at the Bloomfield Multicultural Center. 

The election is March 3, and early voting will go through the end of February during business hours at the Bloomfield City Clerk's office located inside Bloomfield City Hall, 915 N. 1st St.

"It's really about change, but it's about the well-intended positive change," he said. "It's about doing the right thing. And I think, my personal opinion is no matter who you select up here, you probably are not going to go wrong."

This event gave voters the chance to ask the candidates questions. These questions included topics like economic development, the future of the Bloomfield Fire Department, challenges attracting teachers to the school district and the city's ongoing discussions about acquiring an electric utility.

Candidates say more research is needed in electric utility case

The city has been pursuing acquiring an electric utility from the City of Farmington for years, but residents are concerned their electric bills will increase if this occurs.

All three candidates were hesitant to weigh in on the matter.

More: Bloomfield wants to know what electric utility assets could cost. Guzman Energy will help.

"Idealistically, that would be a wonderful thing to have in the City of Bloomfield," Aguirre said. "But realistically, we'd have to weigh all our cons and all our pros to see whether or not it's going to be a benefit."

He said he has not formed an opinion at this time.

Walter echoed that sentiment.

"We can't do something just because it sounds really good at the expense of everything else, is my opinion," he said. "We should do something if we have the infrastructure, the capabilities, the money and everything to pursue it forward. And maybe that should really be the goal. Maybe we should be walking towards that, if everything looks right."

He said the city has to evaluate data, numbers and infrastructure and make a long-term plan.

"It's not enough that we want something," he said. "We have to lay out the roadmap as to how we are going to get that."

Herrera said he also wants to do more research, but is not necessarily against acquiring an electric utility even if it means rates increase.

"We have to weigh pros and cons here," he said. "The cost of living, how much is this going to improve Bloomfield...against how much is it going to take away from my family. We have to provide for our citizens first, but we also have to find a way to grow."

Herrera says he would recuse himself from fire department vote

Many people were specifically interested in Herrera's vision for the Bloomfield Fire Department. Herrera worked for the fire department for years before leaving for the San Juan County Fire Department. He said he took a job with San Juan County so he could run for City Council.

The city began discussions more than a year ago about contracting with San Juan County for a fire department. The topic has been controversial, and some see it as giving up a part of the city's autonomy. Residents are also concerned that contracting with the county will lead to longer response times.

Herrera said he supports contracting with the county because the county could offer more than the city can.

"I think that we need to honor the past, but provide for the future," he said. "We should not let our pride hinder progress."

More: Residents, firefighters talk future of Bloomfield Fire Department

Hererra said he would recuse himself from voting on the matter if he is elected to the City Council.

Mayor Cynthia Atencio, who was moderating the question and answer session, said the city will soon get a new draft agreement with the county. When Bloomfield has that draft contract, she said there will be a public input session to discuss the future of the fire department.

Aguirre said he does not have all the information on both sides, but he said the firefighters will serve the community regardless of what happens.

"It doesn't matter if it has the San Juan County name on the door, they're still going to be from here," he said. "They're still going to want to be a part of this community."

He said he would have to see what the county can offer before he forms an opinion.

"I would go with the way that would better Bloomfield, New Mexico," Aguirre said.

Walter echoed Aguirre's statements.

"I would love nothing more than for Bloomfield to be solidly Bloomfield through and through," he said. "However, we have a duty to the residents to be financially, fiscally responsible." 

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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