Grant intended for street repairs denied

Tony Parra

New Mexico Community Development Council members rejected a block grant of $496,000 on Wednesday to help Portales projects in various street repairs around the city.
The $496,000 would have gone to street repairs and other city projects. Community Development Director Darla Wilhoit, City Manager Debi Lee and Mayor Orlando Ortega were in Albuquerque on Wednesday for the council hearings.
“The council went through a different approach to allocate the money than from the past year,” Wilhoit said. “It was based on a point system and each proposal would be ranked either high, medium or low. This year they did the rankings, but allocated money to some of the proposals which ranked low through nominations.”
The Department of Finance ranks the proposals prior to council review. In previous years, entities with high-ranking proposals had a better chance of receiving funds. Portales’ proposal was a low-ranking proposal, Wilhoit said.
“We had rankings for the proposals, but we also based it on critical needs,” David Ruiz, CDC member and designee for the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration, said. “There are some communities that exhausted all possible avenues. There are small communities that have very little money to operate on. Some communities that have sewer water running down their streets. So there are a lot of needs we have to take into consideration.”
This year the CDC members had the applications and their representatives go through more of a competitive process, according to Ruiz. Ruiz said last year’s process was different because of the transition period for the council members with the newly elected Gov. Bill Richardson.
Ruiz said CDC members who served under the Gov. Gary Johnson regime made recommendations to the new CDC members under Richardson.
“The new council was not able to listen to the proposals last year,” Ruiz said. “That is why it’s not the same. The way we did it this year is how we are going to do it next year.”
Wilhoit said Portales officials viewed the rankings on Wednesday morning. Wilhoit and Ruiz said the CDC members went through a nomination process to allocate the money instead of it being based on only ranks and scoring.
Wilhoit said the United States Housing and Urban Development hands the council a check for $16,629,583 of federal money to allocate to communities for various projects, ranging from street repair to planning to building repairs. The CDC members awarded money to six out of nine proposals, which ranked high and 19 of 33 proposals, which ranked medium and nine of 21 which ranked low.
“There’s going to be a lot of applicants who are going to be frustrated, not just Portales,” Wilhoit said. “Especially the ones who ranked high and didn’t get any money, while some of the applicants who ranked low, did.”
In all, Ruiz said the CDC awarded money to 52 government entities in funding.
“We had $16 million to allocate and there was more than $32 million requested,” Ruiz said. “You can’t get funding every year. We have to improve the quality of life as best we can with the money we’ve got.”