No opposition voiced on proposed street closure

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

If there are Portales residents opposed to closing a section of Commercial Street adjacent to a feed production plant, none of them voiced that opposition Monday night.

That’s when the Portales City Council held a public meeting to discuss a closure request made by J.D. Heiskell and Co. The council is to make a decision about closing the road and leasing it to Heiskell during its Tuesday night meeting.

At Monday’s hearing in City Hall, Heiskell representative Aaron Reid said the mill primarily provides feed for beef and dairy cattle, but also takes locally grown grain and provides nutrition consulting. The Portales facility has 18 to 20 full-time positions.

“We do business locally; we pride ourselves in doing that,” Reid said.

Heiskell pays $20,000 to $25,000 per month in utilities, and had property taxes of $29,000 in 2009, he continued. Of the feed it sells, Reid said, 50 percent goes to customers outside Roosevelt County.

Reid also said 60 trucks a day, six days a week, come to the mill. If 30 percent of those trucks buy fuel in Portales, he said, they spend $5,000, not including other items purchased in Portales.

The New Mexico Environment Department is requiring Heiskell to get an air permit, and Heiskell has been working to meet criteria involving dust control. Passing traffic on Commercial makes that control more difficult, Heiskell officials said.

“We want to be in business here in Portales,” Reid said.

Environmental consultant Anissa Purswell said if the section of Commercial is closed, the facility’s boundaries, as determined by the environment department, will extend. That means dust has more time to settle before reaching the public.

If the street isn’t closed, Purswell said, a model indicates that no matter what Heiskell did, the mill couldn’t keep dust away from the public well enough to meet regulations at its current production level. So, it would have to shut down some of its operations, she said.

Chief Operating Officer Ryan Pellett said company leaders didn’t know what parts of the business would be shut down because they are confident they would work through the issues.

If Heiskell spent too much money on the mill, competition in Texas would roll over the Portales business, he said.

Bo Hardin of Hardin Electric, who does work for Heiskell, said if the mill didn’t get the permit, it would close pieces of operations and Portales would lose jobs and trucks.

“And I don’t think that’s something Portales can afford to lose,” he said.

Kaare Haddeland, who owns property next to the mill, said he was in favor of closing the section of road. He asked the city council to lease the street in case the city needed it at a later point, or if the facility changed hands.