Officials: Bombing range expansion money safe for now

By Argen Duncan: Freedom New Mexico

The $5 million for expansion at the Melrose Bombing Range has escaped cuts in the Legislature.

State Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, said the money is there for now, although he doesn’t know what the governor will propose.

Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield said the project has been around since the Base Realignment and Closure process several years ago.

“My opinion is it probably won’t be cut because it was a priority,” Brumfield said, although she also said there was no guarantee.

In October, the Air Force sent a letter to Gov. Bill Richardson saying it wanted to expand the range with the $5 million the state made available for Air Force projects. So the money was set aside, Brumfield said.

The expansion would involve the state transferring land from the State Land Office to the U.S. Air Force, paying the land office with state money. Richardson and the Legislature secured $5 million for the expansion and support of the new special operations mission in 2007.

Randy Harris of the Committee of Fifty said numerous people and entities have been committed to making the expansion happen, and the Committee of Fifty has talked to legislators about that commitment.

Harris, president and chief executive officer of the Bank of Clovis , stressed the importance of the range and its expansion.

“First of all, the range is a long-term asset and has been the lifeblood of Cannon Air Force Base,” he said.

Without the training opportunities of the range, Harris said, there would be no reason for Cannon.

Harris said the range provides a “unique environment for realistic training” for the Air Force and other branches of the military, and benefits local communities.