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Local officials work to address closure of power plant

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
Kirtland Mayor Mark Duncan speaks during a council meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017 at the Kirtland Town Hall.

KIRTLAND — Local elected officials, the county and Farmington are looking for options to address the potential closure of San Juan Generating Station in 2022, state Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, told the Kirtland Town Council during a meeting Tuesday evening.

The mayor had asked various officials to attend the council meeting due to concerns about property tax rates increasing as two power stacks close at the end of this year and the remaining two close in 2022.

Representatives from both Central Consolidated School District and San Juan College and the San Juan County assessor attended the meeting.

Montoya said there are several options they are pursuing to address the impact the closure will have on the community. Local legislators are currently working to draft legislation that would require Public Service Company of New Mexico to build its replacement natural gas generation facility in San Juan County. Montoya asked the Town Council to pass a resolution of support for the legislation.

Paul Cassidy with Central Consolidated School District gives a presentation to members of the Kirtland council members, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017 at the Kirtland Town Hall.

"The best thing we can do is to keep PNM from leaving," Montoya said.

Even if a new facility is built, there will be a loss of jobs, he said. However, the area will not face a huge loss in property tax like it is currently facing.

Other options include having a merchant utility based in Florida purchase PNM's assets at the generating station or transform the location into an industrial park. If the assets are purchased and the generating station remains open, it will save about 1,500 jobs, Montoya said.

If the San Juan Generating Station completely closes in 2022, San Juan College will face about a $2 million loss in funding, according to Edward DesPlas, the executive vice president.

CCSD gets nearly 31 percent of its property tax from San Juan Generating Station. Paul Aguilar, deputy secretary of finance and operations for the state public education department, said the state funding formula, which is based on the number of students attending school, would likely protect operational funding for the district.

At right, Paul Cassidy with Central Consolidated School District gives a presentation to members of the Kirtland council members, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017 at the Kirtland Town Hall.

"In a few more years, we'll have a better understanding of what this is going to do for all of us," said Mayor Mark Duncan.

He added that it is important to have conversations about the impact early on.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

Edward DesPlas, San Juan College vice-president of administrative services speaks during a Kirtland council meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017 at the Kirtland Town Hall.