Commission OKs downtown funds

By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer

All but one Roosevelt County commissioner voted at Tuesday’s meeting to fund half of the projected shortfall for the Courthouse Square improvement project.

City officials had asked the county to help pay for the project after the bid came in almost $178,000 over budget.

The commission could have also voted to rebid the current work or modify the plans, which call for such things as drainage work, landscaping, lighting, sidewalks and more.

City of Portales Planning Director Sammy Standefer said the bid the city received was more than $719,000. By taking out certain aspects of the plan, the city would be able to cut the cost by $86,000.

The city had planned to fund the project with money it had from the state, grants and its own coffers.

City Manager Debra Lee said she believed the city would pay for half of the shortfall, about $88,500, if the county provided the other half.

County Commissioner Paul Grider cast the only vote against providing funds to go ahead with the work on the current bid.

“I wanted to see what they were going to do with the truck traffic before I committed,” Grider said in a phone call after the meeting.

The commissioner didn’t want to fix the streets only to have frequent use by semi tractor-trailers tear them up again, he said.

Commissioner Dennis Lopez said during the meeting that he wanted the project done because he saw the need. With today’s economy, he said, there would always be a shortfall.

The Portales City Council wanted the commissioners’ opinion before making a decision on whether they would help fund the overage, Standefer said.

Lee said the city’s ability to pay was affected by a recent decrease in gross receipts tax income. She also said other contractors might bid on the project, and recommended modifying the project and staying within allotted funds.

Lee also said bids might come back higher if the work was rebid without modification.

“Everything that’s being designed is much needed,” Lee said, however.

Cutting items from the plan would be difficult, she said. However, Lee expects the Courthouse Square would get landscaping, lights and sidewalks from a separate project on U.S. 70.

As for the trucks, she said there isn’t the money to build new roads for a truck route, but planners might be able to use existing streets.

In other business:

• Commissioners discussed whether to lease a bulldozer, but took no action.

• Commissioners awarded a bid of about $27,600 for a 10-foot chainlink fence with barbed wire at the top for the Roosevelt County Detention Center to Western Builders and Fencing.

• A motion to institute a smoke-free workplace policy died for lack of a second.