Concerns emerge about funding for Foothills Drive project
Change to funding formula places greater burden on city
FARMINGTON — When people began building homes in the Foothills Drive area more than 50 years ago, the road was not built up to the standards that the city would have required of developers, Farmington public works director David Sypher says.
Sypher spoke to the Farmington City Council Tuesday evening about a project to improve the road. The council authorized Sypher to apply for grant funding from the New Mexico Department of Transportation for phase three of the Foothills Enhancement Project, which includes road improvements such as resurfacing, drainage improvements, sidewalks, curbs and gutters.
According to the city agenda packet, the city hopes to receive $922,500 in grant funding from NMDOT. That would mean the city would need to pay $307,500 — or 30 percent of the total cost — to complete phase three of the project. The meeting and related documents can be viewed online at fmtn.org.
Sypher explained that phase three is actually the fourth phase of the project. He said initially the project was divided into two phases.
"They thought (the city) would make some upgrades to an existing road that had developed over time," Sypher said.
He said about 14 years ago, the city built and made improvements on Foothills Drive from Piñon Hills Boulevard to Holmes Drive.
The next phase of the project was to go from Holmes Drive to Cheva Court. Sypher said that phase was a $3.6 million project, so the city broke it up into three phases.
Phase one was from Holmes Drive to Rinconada Street, phase two was from Rinconada Street to Mesa del Oso and phase three was from Mesa del Oso to Cheva Court.
The section from Holmes Drive to Rinconada Street is fully funded. Sypher said construction likely will begin this spring and the goal is to have it completed by the end of the year.
He said the city also has funded phase two from Rinconada Street to Mesa del Oso.
Sypher said in the past the city has been able to receive funding from the state of 70 to 80 percent for the project, but now those funding sources tend to require larger amounts of city funds. The state has required local matches of 20 to 30 percent.
"In the old days, we had lots of reserves, and we were able to make it work," Sypher said.
He said now the city's street funds are needed for resurfacing work.
"It's going to be very difficult if (the state does) what they've trended to do lately," Sypher said.
He explained that recent state grants have required a large portion of the project, or even the majority of the project, to be funded through a local match. The grants have tended to be 30 percent state funding and 70 percent local, according to Sypher.
He said if the city is offered funding for 30 percent of the project through the grant from NMDOT, leaving the city to pay for the remaining 70 percent, the feasibility of the project will be in jeopardy.
City Manager Rob Mayes told the council that the streets fund has 20 percent less money in it than it did in 2009, and everything costs about 25 percent more.
"The fact is that there are going to be some tough decisions that this council is going to have to make regarding funding and funding priorities," Mayes said.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at email@example.com.