By Tony Parra
Eastern New Mexico University leaders took a first-hand look on Tuesday at leadership in the eastern plains of New Mexico area to find out about the of lack of water, a truck by-pass and housing.
The Leadership ENMU tour consisted mostly of ENMU faculty, according to Elaine Ennis, who was in charge of the tour. ENMU faculty viewed many of the organizations and government entities in Portales and Cannon Air Force Base. They visited with James Holloway, superintendent of the Portales Schools district to start their tour. They also went on a tour of the La Casa de Buena Salud health center and talked with Seferino Montano, CEO of La Casa de Buena Salud, on the various health care topics.
Clyde Bundy of the Golden Library asked if city officials have explored the possibility of a truck bypass in Portales. At present time, semi-trucks and heavy traffic head down First and Second streets.
“The city is having discussions in regards to a truck bypass,” Debi Lee, city manager, said. “The downtown people see it as a threat, but studies reflect (that) truck traffic, (with) the volume and their speed, cause people not to shop downtown. I personally believe we need to get the trucks out of the downtown area.”
Lee also discussed housing needs in Portales. She said after talking to real estate representatives, she discovered the market in Portales has turned from a buyers’ market to a sellers’ market in the last couple of years. According to Lee, Portales will be 320 houses short of having adequate housing in 10 years.
Lee said Portales is affected by the housing overflow from Clovis also. She said there were four subdivisions in review in the planning office in Clovis, today.
Lee told the participants the Holiday Inn Express and the Portales Inn are two of the new businesses which will be added to Portales. She said businesses such as Applebee’s, Home Depot and Chili’s generally need a population base of at least 50,000 to start their businesses in a city.
D.K. Shafer, city councilor, answered questions about the Ute Water project and water issues the city has. Those on the tour asked how long Portales could go without the Ute Water project.
“The Ute lake is the only replenishable water source,” Shafer said. “We only have about 30 to 40 years of water available.”
The total cost of the Ute Water Project is $296,619,200, according to a report from Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System. If the federal government agrees to pay 80 percent of the cost ($237,295,360) and the state pays 10 percent ($29,661,920) the local governments will have to pay 10 percent ($29,661,920).
“Bernallilo County citizens agreed to do a similar project in 1970 and it’s given them an additional 80 years (of water),” Dennis Lopez, Roosevelt County commission chairman, said. “They were skeptical in the beginning.”
The Leadership ENMU members also traveled to Cannon Air Force Base where they took a tour of Cannon Air Force Base and headed back to Portales for a final stop at the Roosevelt County Welcome Business Center.
“We have land in the industrial park available,” Kim Huffman, community development director, said. “We can come up with tax breaks and incentives to bring in new businesses.”