County road closure debated

Kevin Wilson

Robert Snell stepped to the podium at the Clovis-Carver Public Library, having been afforded two minutes to speak his opinion on a proposed closure of Curry Road R.

He wouldn’t need them.

“I’m Robert Snell. I think you ought to keep the road open. Thank you,” Snell said, then returned to his seat at Monday’s Joint Land Use Study public input meeting.

The meeting, which took a little more than an hour at the library’s north annex, closed with an open microphone session for Snell or anybody else who wished to attend, and was preceded by an explanation of the JLUS.

The process was created in 1995, Rudy Bauer said, for military communities about to experience large changes

“The intent is to minimize conflicts between the town and the institutions,” said Bauer, a senior planner for HDR, Inc., an architecture, engineering and consulting firm hired to help with the process as Cannon Air Force Base grows into its Special Operations Command mission.

Bauer said any actions recommended in the study were only recommendations and would require county commission approval.

Attorney Randy Knudson, speaking for the county, addressed County Road R, which is suggested for closure for safety concerns. The road connects N.M. 467 and U.S. 60/84 and runs along CAFB’s west border.

When Knudson first came to the podium, he asked by a show of hands who was at the meeting with concerns about the road. About a third of the 60 in attendance raised their hands.

Knudson said under state statute 67-5-4, the county commission could close any county road if it is determined the road is not needed or repair costs exceed the road’s overall benefit.

A few speakers agreed with the view the road should be closed, with County Road T upgraded as an alternate route. Some, unlike Snell, took more than their allotted two minutes.

“Though Cannon accounts for 33 percent of the local economy,” Lonnie Leslie said, “during this study it has had very few requests.”

Stacy Martin of Clovis, who was on numerous committees to help Cannon, said he traveled the proposed alternate route and it took him an extra 4:40 minutes — a time he felt wasn’t a large sacrifice, since the community promised to help the base grow if the Department of Defense found a suitable mission and numerous personnel have noted the road as a security concern.

“This is not a one-time fleeting wish,” Martin said. “This issue will stay (if we don’t fix it).”

Some at the meeting felt safety concerns were overblown, and noted that County Roads 8 and 9 present similar security risks but aren’t targeted for closure.

Dillon Lewis said supporters of the closure have invoked memories of Sept. 11, but that rationale didn’t stand up to facts. He also noted that neighbor Robert Montague lives 30 feet from the proposed alternate route and would be greatly inconvenienced.

“At 65-70 miles an hour in front of your home,” Lewis said, “it’s not going to be acceptable.”

Mark Sweetman, speaking on behalf of Sam Snell, said the reasons for closing Road R didn’t meet the standards required by 67-5-4, and Steve Reeves said if Cannon is concerned about security, improvements to existing fencing will be the most effective solution.

Billy Tate of Curry County said he didn’t like the idea of ceding to the federal government now, when the road has existed for decades.

“We’ve been up and down that road most of our lives,” Tate said. “What’s going to happen next? You may want to go three miles out. You may want to go five miles out. We’ve got livelihoods out there.”

The plan is available for review at www.cannonafbjlus.org. Curry County Manager Lance Pyle said another meeting would be held 6 p.m. Oct. 28 with a site still to be finalized, and the Curry County Commission would discuss the study in its 9 a.m. Nov. 5 meeting.