Roads, housing cited as top economic concerns

By Tony Parra

City and county officials from southeastern New Mexico pleaded their cases for funding on Thursday with a focus on roads, correctional facilities and water projects.
New Mexico Finance Authority Oversight Committee members met with officials from several counties and cities to discuss their legislative priorities and needs in the Sandia Room of the Campus Union Building on the campus of Eastern New Mexico University.
NMFAOC members will be in Clovis today to speak with Curry and Quay county and city officials on their legislative priorities.
Mayor Orlando Ortega and city manager Debi Lee told NMFAOC members the top priority for the city of Portales is street improvements. NMFAOC members viewed pamphlets with photos illustrating street damages and drainage problems.
“Transportation must be safe and convenient and able to support traffic in our communities,” Lee said. “There has been an increase in traffic and the water on the streets has damaged the condition of the streets. We desperately need some repair. We’re concerned it’s going to give a bad first impression.”
The second priority for Portales is affordable housing. There was a housing fair in mid-April to help future home buyers. Harriet Ruiz, advisory member, asked about the problems home buyers have in Portales.
“We don’t have lots available,” Ortega said. “The local contractors we have are doing a good job but we can’t build enough to meet the needs.”
Advisory senator of the NMFAOC committee Stuart Ingle said Portales has shown progress in the last 20 years he has been a legislator. He said much of the credit goes to the people of Roosevelt County.
“This community has done much for itself,” Ingle said. “The (Roosevelt General) hospital was basically gone five years ago. The community taxed itself to have the hospital built and the hospital has been extremely successful. The hospital has been operating in the black and is managed very well.”
Ingle also credited the business people in the downtown area for the improvements made in the downtown area and taken it upon themselves to make it look better. The other priorities are parks and water supply.
Roosevelt County Administrator Charlene Hardin used the power of images to illustrate a top county concern — the overcrowding problem at the Roosevelt County Detention Center. The photo showed three inmates sleeping in a cell meant for one, with two mattresses on the concrete floor. The problem created limited space for inmates to walk around in.
The inmate population has been at an average between 77 to 82 inmates with the peak being 92 inmates in the RCDC. Jail officials are having to transport some inmates to Dickens County, Texas, at a rate of $38 per day. RCDC officials have spent $162,000 in the last fiscal year to house inmates, Hardin said.
Hardin said some of the reasons for the overcrowding is repeat offenders and those who are in the RCDC accused of drug possession and driving while impaired.
Other legislative priorities for Roosevelt County are roads and the Roosevelt County fairgrounds.
Chavez County Manager Stanton Riggs said his county has road problems.
Dennis Holmberg, Lea County’s manager, said his county has housing issues.
“In the 10 years that I have been in Lea County the largest subdivision we’ve had was for 30 homes,” Holmberg said.
Holmberg said local contractors are financially unable to take risks or build a subdivision and that it is tough bringing in larger contractors from Albuquerque.