Richardson to visit eastern New Mexico

Gov. Bill Richardson is planning to visit Fort Sumner, Clovis and Portales today.

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico

Gov. Bill Richardson is visiting eastern New Mexico today as part of his statewide listening tour.

Alarie Ray Garcia, Richardson’s deputy communications director, said the tour has a stop in each New Mexico county. She said it’s an opportunity for invited leaders and lawmakers to address projects that may qualify for stimulus funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Richardson will be at Fort Sumner’s city hall at 1:30 p.m., then visit the Clovis-Carver Public Library at 3:30 p.m. before finishing the evening with a 5:30 p.m. stop at the Roosevelt County Courthouse in Portales.

Garcia said the meetings could also cover other community needs, but the tour is primarily to make sure Richardson and others are “on the same page” on stimulus-related projects.

“It’s just the governor coming to listen to officials,” Garcia said. “The state’s gotten a lot of paperwork turned in on these things, but he wants to hear about each project.”

No doubt he’ll hear about the Hull Street Overpass in Clovis, which has been closed since last summer.

“We’ll be talking about Hull Street and see where we are with the funding there,” Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield said. “We’re definitely still working on that.”

The overpass’ replacement is estimated to cost between $8 million and $9 million, Clovis City Manager Joe Thomas said, factoring in construction, design and demolition costs. The aim is to have the overpass replaced by the middle of 2010.

Thomas said there’s no money in hand, but verbal commitments add up to about $3.5 million and the design is in the “t’s crossed, i’s dotted” stages.

“We haven’t prepared the bid document because we are told we need a federal control number (to qualify for stimulus funds qualification),” Thomas said.

Other items on the city wish list, Thomas said, are funds to defray city costs on wastewater treatment plant upgrades, the addition of a therapy pool and extra classroom space for the wellness center, and street repairs on Norris Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Curry County Manager Lance Pyle said the county without question supports the efforts for Hull Street, but the county’s top priority will be road funding.

“With the expansion of (Cannon Air Force) Base,” Pyle said, “there are needs to go towards maintaining those roads.”

Pyle said he’s also applied for a recovery grant to hire three additional sheriff’s office deputies, and is thinking in the long-term about a judicial complex to host district court, judges’ offices and the district attorney’s office. Such efforts, he said, would save the county $100,000 in rent and make the judicial system more efficient.

“To better serve the public,” Pyle said, “we need to try to house everything in the same facility.”

Pyle said the Curry County Special Events Center still needs additional construction on parking and covers for horse stalls, but he doesn’t believe either of those qualify for stimulus dollars.

Portales City Manager Debi Lee envisions city officials will show gratitude for Richardson’s help on many local projects.

“He’s helped us with job creation and renovation of the Yam (theater),” Lee said. “He’s been really helpful in funding some downtown housing as well as Highway 70.”

The city will receive $249,000 in stimulus funds to do landscaping, median and city entrance improvements along Highway 70, Lee said. But in general, she said Portales hasn’t asked for many other projects.

“We understand the state’s financial situation,” Lee said. “We’re appreciative of the projects we’ve got going on. Hopefully, the state’s financial position will get better soon.”