City getting ready to request bids on downtown work

By William P. Thompson

City of Portales officials now have nearly half a million dollars in funding for renovations to the Roosevelt County Courthouse square. Portales’ Director of Community Development Jeremy Sturm said the state legislature recently gave out $125,000 in capital outlay for the project and the New Mexico Dept. of Transportation was able to add $273,000 more in funding through a federal “transportation equity act” grant.

“We will be submitting requests for bid proposals (RFP’s) shortly,” Sturm said at a meeting of Roosevelt County commissioners Monday. “We hope that construction can begin by late summer.”

Sturm said there are two “preliminary” ideas planners are looking at regarding revamping of the courthouse square. He said one design is more elaborate, but both ideas would cost about the same. He said he can’t be sure exactly how much the project will cost until details have been hammered out with engineers.

“Any contract we work out with engineers would have to be approved by the city council,” Sturm said. “We will be seeking input all along the way. These designs are not set in stone.”

One design idea calls for a grand entranceway leading to the front of the courthouse (the south entrance facing Second Street). The entranceway would begin in an alley directly across the street from the front entrance.

Sturm said the entranceway could be lined with trees and plants, and the pathway could consist of ornate brickwork. Sturm said more trees and landscaping will likely be added regardless of the design chosen.

“Right now it (the courthouse square) is a sea of asphalt,” Sturm said. “Asphalt is not the prettiest surface.”
Parking capacity will not be affected by the addition of landscaping.

“We have made it very clear that there can be no fewer parking spaces than there are now,” Sturm said.

A network of “trails” using existing roads, for walkers and possibly bicyclists, is envisioned from distant parts of the city to the downtown square. Sturm said one such trail would follow a road from Eastern New Mexico University to downtown. A sidewalk could be installed along the route and the route could be lined with trees and/or signs pointing the way to downtown.

Sturm said if construction began by late summer he would expect construction to be completed by the end of 2006. He said environmental impact studies have yet to be completed but they should be completed by Aug. 15.

Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega, Jr. said the courthouse square project fits right in with various ongoing projects designed to improve downtown.

”We want to make this very user friendly,” he said. “Parking is very important. It the courthouse square project) will tie in with the new lamp posts, sidewalks and benches, and it will fit in well with the Yam Theater renovation.”

Sturm said city officials began seeking funding for the courthouse square renovation back in 2003.