Ute Water Project, Yam Theater topics at city meeting

By Tony Parra

Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority Project Manager Scott Verhines is trying to pick up steam for the Ute Water Project before his trip to Washington D.C.
Verhines intends to show the support of the communities involved and as far as Portales is concerned, city officials are completely committed to the project.
Portales city officials are willing to take one crucial step, an annual water rate hike of 4 percent, which would mean an increase from $1.35 a gallon in 2005 to $1.40 a gallon in 2006.
Mayor Orlando Ortega said Portales is committed to a setup that includes 80 percent fuding from the federal government, 10 percent from the state and 10 percent from the ENMRWA members for the $300 million project.
Verhines said he need to know whether communities are committed to the project and the amount of water which needs to be pumped into each community. Verhines said he received a letter from the Tucumcari city council stating that the city wants to continue to be a member of the Ute Water Project and wants to have 2,000 acre-feet of water pumped into the community and keep 4,000 acre-feet of water in the Ute Water Reservoir.
He said Texico and Melrose has already imposed water rate hikes to help finance the project. Verhines said Grady has imposed a recent tax and water-rate increase, also. Ortega said Clovis has imposed a tax to help pay for the financing.
Portales city manager Debi Lee said the city needs to look at an annual water rate increase of somewhere between 4 to 5 percent. Lee said Portales has already generated more than $900,000 in the enterprise revenue, which can be used to fund Portales’ portion of the Ute Water Project.
Lee said Portales needs to add to its enterprise fund to help offset the cost of the third phase of the project. The $2.36 million would have to be paid by Portales during the third phase of the project from 2010 to 2013. City councilors met with Verhines and Kevin Powers, a financial consultant for Dain Rauscher of Albuquerque, for a couple of hours before the city meeting to discuss the Ute Water Project.

In other business at the city meeting:
— Ortega said during a luncheon last week with industrialists, the industrialists voiced their concerns regarding manpower in Portales. Ortega said they stressed a need for employees. Ortega said city officials need to advertise in 10 regional newspapers and perhaps conduct job fairs in surrounding cities, such as Roswell, Albuquerque and Lubbock.
— City councilors approved to have Lee proceed with talks with housing developers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe regarding six acres of city-owned land at the west corner of Avenue T and New Mexico Highway 267, located north of the Western Skies community.
Ortega said he and Lee went to Albuquerque and met with representatives of Pulte Homes of Albuquerque and Artisic Homes of Albuquerque. Ortega said their talks with the representatives generated interest in Portales. He said the key was the marketing analysis of Portales housing.
— City councilors approved to have a letter of support created to give to Gov. Bill Richardson regarding the Yam Movie Theater. The Portales MainStreet is working on renovation of the Yam Theater and construction of a new facade was completed in December.
The MainStreet board is requesting the transfer of ownership from Portales MainStreet to the city of Portales in order to receive state funding for the Yam Theater project.
“We thought it would take four to five years (through private funding),” Danny Woodward of the Portales MainStreet board said. “In talking with New Mexico Economic Development Department Secretary Rick Homans, he suggested there was going to be money available for these types of projects.”
Woodward said this would not affect the funding the city of Portales and Roosevelt County is trying to get through capital outlay requests. City councilor Jake Lopez said the funding request would come from Richardson’s $190 million pool for economic development projects.