By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
Candidates for two of the four open Portales City Council seats didn’t appear to have any real sharp differences on most issues facing the city during a forum held Monday at the Memorial Building.
City council candidates challenger Michael Martinez and incumbent Gary Watkins in Ward B and incumbent Michael Miller and challenger Keith Thomas in Ward D addressed a variety of issues during a candidates forum sponsored by the Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce and the city of Portales.
After an opening statement, each candidate had the chance to answer three questions posed in written form to them before the forum. The remainder of the hour-long event was devoted to questions submitted by the audience. The first of those posed panel questions dealt with the candidates’ vision of Portales five years down the road.
“I would hope that we would have a tremendous quality of life,” Miller said. “I think it’s something we’re working on now, improving our parks finding our young people things to do finding things for our adults to do with what is going on in our downtown improvement. … Just a place that people want to talk good about in Portales.
Thomas said he wanted to see a firm plan of action to address the city’s water supply.
“Without a reliable supply of water our city’s very existence is in jeopardy,” Thomas said. “I’d like to see our community continue to grow and be known for the friendly people that we do have here. I would like to see our schools score the highest and safest.”
Martinez also touched the chord of economic development in his answer.
“Over the next five years I hope to see the community of Portales continue to prosper,” Martinez said. “I hope to see growth not only in population but also in the business sector.”
He said with Cannon Air Force Base’s new mission he was optimistic that the community would continue to grow. He also touched on a police substation on the south side of Portales and the need to assure the city’s water supply.
“I think in the next five years we’re going to see a lot of new business come into Portales,” Watkins said. “We’re expecting some growth and we must be ready to do our part.”
Watkins noted the hiring of an economic development recruiter, the possibility of new Cannon families locating in Portales and new housing and business starts as some of the action being taken to prepare for that growth.
The candidates also answered panel questions on how they perceived their role as a councilor and whether or not the city should pursue a new solid waste disposal site (landfill) or not.
On the latter question Martinez said it was time to get it done. The city deserved its own landfill.
Thomas said he supported the idea but the bottom line would be the money. He said he’d been told a new landfill might be 20 years down the road but he felt like the city needed to stop talking about it and take action to do it.
Miller said the issue was a dual city/county issue with ramifications on the water table. He pointed out that the economics we’re there to drive a new landfill. He said access to convenience stations (drop-off spots) for all residences need to be maintained and improved.
Watkins said the city had done some pretty comprehensive studies on the issue that showed that it is less expensive to continue utilizing the Clovis landfill. He said analysis of that needed to continue as the contract with the Clovis landfill comes up soon. “You have to look at the bottom dollar.”
Among the topics the audience posed questions on were: Abandoned vehicles and city code, street repair and replacement, water supply, odors from the waste water treatment plant and other sources and water conservation.
The municipal election is March 4. Early voting in person at the city clerk’s office and absentee voting by mail have already started.