Study approved for cheese plant road

By Kevin Wilson

The Roosevelt County Commission on Tuesday allowed $70,000 in capital outlay to be available for a feasibility study on a road in Roosevelt County leading to the Glanbia cheese plant near the Roosevelt-Curry County border.
The measure, which passed by a 3-0 vote, will keep the commission as the fiscal agent for the study, and the Roosevelt County Community Development Center to perform the study. The CDC will study what support the measure will get from Clovis, Curry County and the state. The CDC will also seek the costs for acquiring property, creating the road and maintaining the road.
The road would be roughly halfway between the Midway and Idsinga dairies outside of Portales and would lead north to Curry County Road 4, which connects the cheese plant to U.S. 70. A road in Roosevelt County would create another connection to County Road 4, and create a shortcut for traffic from the south.
“If we’ve got a shortcut road, a big percentage of the people will choose to live in Portales,” said Kim Huffman, chairman of the CDC.
Huffman presented a package during the meeting, which was a combination of the commission and members of city council. The package outlined the road and its potential benefits — most notably savings in mileage.
From the starting point of the proposed road to the cheese plant would be approximately 2.8 miles. To drive to Curry County and take County Road 4 is 4.2 miles.
Huffman calculated that with dairy trucks saving 2.8 miles per trip (1.4 miles each way), averaging 200 trips per day with $2 spent per mile, the road would equal a savings of $408,800 per year for businesses that send milk and other products to the plant.
Huffman said that there are 45 dairies in Roosevelt County, and 43 of them would benefit from the shortcut.
“It would open up an area of economic development (for businesses interested in bringing a business near the cheese plant) and it would save money in the process,” Huffman said. “The money that’s being saved is money from the local people.”
Huffman also said the road would help Curry County by spreading out traffic. Huffman estimated that the cheese plant traffic would average one vehicle every six minutes — not counting the employee vehicles — and an extra road could improve safety.
“What if there’s an icy road, and somebody jackknives a truck?” Huffman asked. “Then it’s really a big trip to get in (the cheese plant without the Roosevelt County road).”
The commissioners had several concerns with the costs. Huffman said that creating a road would cost anywhere from $400,000 to $1 million. Commissioner Tom Clark asked Huffman if those figures included buying the property for the road or maintaining the road — Huffman said they did not.
Clark figured that the project would need at least the cooperation of Clovis and Curry County, and he asked, “What’s the incentive for Curry County and Clovis to join in on this?”
City Councilor D.K. Shafer answered.
“I think it’s a good way to see how the concept of a microplex will work,” Shafer said.
Clovis and Portales entered into a microplex agreement in 2003, which combined the populations of the cities to create a consumer base which has helped bring the cheese plant and several other businesses to the area.
Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega said Clovis has been benefitting more from the microplex because city officials are being aggressive in attracting businesses, and Portales can do the same thing by being aggressive about a road.
Ortega added he has good working relationships with both Clovis and Curry County officials and he would be willing to work with the agencies to show incentive.
“I do believe this is an opportunity we should not allow to pass us by,” Ortega said. “We talk about economic development in Portales and Roosevelt County. We need to look at everything and try to create the opportunities.”
Commissioners thought the road was a good idea to look into, but wanted to know what the price tag would be and what support would come from Curry County, Clovis and the state.
“Of course they’ll want a road,” said Chairman Dennis Lopez. “But how will they show support? Is it by writing a letter or is it by funding it?”