Water authority cautiously optimistic about capital outlay award
June 28, 2020
CLOVIS — The Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority had optimism, albeit cautious, a $1 million capital outlay award it received from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in February would survive a coronavirus-fueled budget cutting special session.
With the session concluded and the authority meeting Wednesday, state consultant Joe Thompson said the optimism was justified. The money remains in the authority’s ledger to help cover costs of the authority’s Finished Water 3 construction.
Thompson said during the session there were natural concerns the money might get swept away, but it was also his understanding that construction projects that can start soon are viewed as stimulus and have better chances of avoiding chopping blocks.
Also during the session, Thompson said a half-dozen legislators came to him unsolicited and encouraged the authority to “keep going.”
The authority is currently working on Finished Water phases as part of an interim underground water delivery system in Curry and Roosevelt counties. The Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System’s final purpose is to deliver reserved water from the Ute Reservoir, but the authority is completing the local portion of the pipeline first so it can be used to deliver water from local sellers while the connection to the reservoir is pending.
Finished Water 3 will take the pipeline from Cannon Air Force Base to Portales. In addition to the capital outlay award, funding will be come from a $15 million federal Bureau of Reclamation award and a $5.7 million New Mexico Water Trust Board award.
In other business at the Thursday meeting:
• The authority’s Finished Water 2 work, which takes the project to Cannon Air Force Base, has passed hydrotesting and only has a few punchlist items remaining before a substantial completion walkthrough on Wednesday.
• Authority members approved the authority’s insurance coverage for the upcoming year. The $58,070 includes umbrella property insurance, general liability, and liability for employment practices and public official error and omissions. Executive Director Orlando Ortega said small increases were unavoidable because the authority has received larger federal and state awards than it has in prior years.
• A discussion on establishing a groundwater committee was tabled. Chair David Lansford did not attend the meeting, and Vice Chair Ron Jackson didn’t think it made sense to have a discussion without Lansford because he was the one who wanted to explore the issue.
• Ortega gave a financial report, noting the authority had a $4.954 million bank balance on May 31 and a $4.538 million balance as of Wednesday. He noted an accounting firm that works with the authority just credited a deposit the authority made months ago but unnoticed by the firm until a few days ago. Ortega said the authority would have caught the error through its own reconciliation processes, but felt good knowing the accounting firm caught its error first.
• The authority met in executive session for about 15 minutes to discuss pending or threatened litigation, and took no action before adjourning the meeting.
• The next meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. July 23, tentatively at the Sitterly Professional Center.