By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
What started as a gripe session evolved into group therapy.
Dora and southern Roosevelt County residents filled the Dora Senior Citizens Center on Monday night to hold the collective feet of the Department of Transportation and N.M. 209 road contractors to the fire.
Over and over they heard contractors and NMDOT officials tell them that the road would be fixed right when the project is done.
“We’re learning some lessons we should have known already,” NMDOT District 2 Engineer Gary Shubert said.
Shubert told the crowd mistakes had been made in the project, which began last fall and has been suspended several times for various reasons. Included in that list of problems was an error that mixed the material being applied too richly with oil.
Mel Brazier, general manager of Brazier Construction, the main contractor on the project, told the crowd, while he understood and shared the crowd’s misery and understood that they might feel like guinea pigs, that the methods that were being used in recycling the highway were the wave of the future with petroleum prices on the rise.
“The lessons we’re learning here are going to be valuable for the state and other communities in the future,” Brazier said. “We have made some mistakes.”
One man, who didn’t identify himself, asked how the state could be saving money if they keep coming back over the highway, doing repairs.
Ray Reeves, NMDOT project manager said he knew the spot the man was referring to and said it was a spot where there was too much oil in the mix.
“It’ll get fixed right,” Reeves said. “In the long run it’ll still save money.”
County resident Cindy Harth was a little more direct when she approached the question of safety on the highway.
“You said it’s been uncomfortable (for residents), it’s been more than uncomfortable, it’s been unsafe,” Harth said. “You’re talking about (this road) surviving a wet summer. It didn’t survive a dry winter.”
Bill Rush also vented his frustration with the ongoing road construction process in the area.
“It seems like you never bring enough to get the job done,” Rush said.
“It’s been very frustrating.”
Rush said if the NMDOT and the contractors would assure the residents they’ll have a good road when they’re done, we’ll all stand up and applaud you when you’re done.
“I think it’s a great safety hazard,” resident Hillary Beggs said. “I have kids and grandkids that drive this road. I want someone paying attention to it.”
Resident Adrian Stroup backed up what Rush said about getting assurances that the road would be done right.
“We’ve got to drive on this road for the next 10 years after you leave,” Stroup said. “That’s why we want it smooth.”
State senators Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, and Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, along with State Rep. Keith Gardner, R-Roswell, were on hand for the forum. All three expressed concern that highways are chronically under-funded in the state.
“We do our best, but sometimes trains get more money,” Ingle said, making reference to the Roadrunner train project that was funded by this year’s capital outlay.
“If you understand these folks feelings you have to be sympathetic,” Ingle added. “I think there is a lot of really deep frustration and broken windshields here.”
After learning that shoulder work south of Dora had not been included in the project, Ingle asked Shubert to let him know what the price tag would be to do so. Ingle, Kernan and Gardner pledged to do what they could to get the money.
Reeves said the project is currently waiting on things to dry out, in particular around the hot-mix plant at the state yard in Portales. He said crews have four to five days more of patching and base work to do before they begin applying the two-inch overlay which will make the roadway smooth and safe.
He said that without rain or breakdowns at the hot-mix plant that process would last about three weeks.