Governor discusses priorities for federal stimulus money

By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer

Gov. Bill Richardson listened to local officials’ funding priorities Tuesday evening in the Roosevelt County Courthouse, and said he wanted to help with Greyhound Arena air conditioning and moving an indoor arena to the county fairgrounds.

Richardson was traveling the state on a “listening tour” to learn about priorities for projects that could receive federal stimulus money.

“The reason we’re here, my team is here, is to make sure we know what your needs are and to help with the application process,” he told leaders from several entities.

Commissioner Gene Creighton said the county wants to move a multi-purpose indoor arena from Colorado to the fairgrounds. Twelve years ago, County Commission Chairman David Sanders said, the building cost $1.12 million, but now a non-profit entity can get it for a finder’s fee and dismantling and moving expenses, an estimated total of $400,000.

Sanders said the county could do the project right away if it had funding, and Commissioner Paul Grider said it would benefit people around the area.

“That’s a big priority,” Richardson said.

For Eastern New Mexico University, President Steven Gamble said they needed $950,000 for a Greyhound Arena air conditioning system. The old system is working, but collapsing because of its own weight.

“I’m going to help you with that. You just watch,” Richardson said of the project at the end of the meeting.

On another subject, Richardson said public safety agencies in Portales are eligible for $20,000 in funds.

“I think that looks good,” he said.

As for alternative energy, Richardson said entities in the area should apply for “green grid” grants with its enormous potential for wind energy.

“We know that we’re attractive for wind and solar,” said Greg Fisher, Roosevelt County Community Development Corporation director.

However, he said the area needs water infrastructure for the solar and wind power companies, and broadband Internet and access to the state’s supercomputer would also help.

Earlier in the meeting, Sanders said the problem with renewable energy in the county is the lack of transmission lines. Renewable energy companies have looked at the area, but the necessary heavy-duty lines cost a lot to build, about $1 million a mile, he said.

Richardson later said the state was working on getting the lines.

Speaking on behalf of the city of Portales, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Miller said the city wants $22 million to build a wastewater treatment plant.

“That’s probably our No. 1 project citywide right now,” he said.

In response to the governor’s inquiry, Miller said the cost is high because the project was just starting and planners wanted to recycle water.