Water authority optimistic about money prospects
January 26, 2020
CLOVIS — With the caveat that nothing’s guaranteed in government funding, consultants for the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority were optimistic during their Thursday meeting about the prospects for big injections of state and federal dollars to its interim groundwater project.
Reports from state consultant Joe Thompson and federal consultant John Ryan both illustrated opportunities for the authority to come closer to its 20/30/40 plan, which would raise $90 million to complete the delivery system that would eventually connect to the Ute Reservoir in Quay County and for the interim facilitate delivery of locally purchased water to authority members.
Thompson told authority members a Monday meeting with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to discuss the water project was positive, in no small part thanks to Sens. Stuart Ingle and Pat Woods and Rep. Randy Crowder going to bat for the project.
“I thought everybody from the authority did a great job,” Thompson said, “and we’ll have a really good opportunity to get (funding).”
Authority Chair David Lansford, in sentiments echoed by Thompson, said he felt Lujan Grisham had sincerity for the project and felt like she would work hard to help the authority. Members are hoping for a $30 million state award as part of the 20/30/40 plan.
Ryan told authority members they were in a waiting pattern on money from the Bureau of Reclamation, and noted the rural water program received its highest annual award at $132 million. The money is split among five water projects, of which the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System is the youngest. Members are seeking a $40 million federal award as part of the 20/30/40 plan.
The city of Clovis has passed a property tax to fund $15 million of the $20 million local share, but it will not be collected unless the state and federal awards are also granted.
In other business at the Thursday meeting:
• Authority Executive Director Orlando Ortega introduced Jacquelynn Bowens, who joined the authority Jan. 6 as a part-time support service officer. Ortega said Bowens would largely work on procurement issues and grants.
“She’s asking good questions,” Ortega said, “and already digging to find things for the authority.”
• Thompson said a pair of identical bills were in the New Mexico Legislature, one in the House and one in the Senate, to change the authority membership to reflect the departures of Curry County, Grady and Melrose. The bills required a special message from Gov. Lujan Grisham for consideration because legislation in a 30-day session is otherwise limited to budgetary measures. Thompson anticipates both bills will pass unanimously.
• The authority approved four contract renewals and one adjustment. The renewals were for Thompson, Ryan, MJR Maintenance for operation of the intake structure by Ute Reservoir and Harmon Barnett Morris for legal services.
The amended contract is for office space at the Sitterly Professional Center. More space was needed with Bowens joining, and the money payment went from $785 to $1,185. The payment, Ortega said, covers office and conference room usage, utilities, Internet access, janitorial and reception services.
• The authority approved a pair of easements totaling $2,650 for Finished Water 3, which will take the pipeline project from Cannon Air Force Base to Portales.
• The authority met in executive session for nearly 30 minutes to discuss acquisition of real estate and threatened or pending litigation. No action was taken after the authority returned to open session.
• The next meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Sitterly Professional Center.