Officials look to keep office open in Portales

By Tony Parra

Mayor Orlando Ortega traveled to Albuquerque earlier this week to meet with Department of Labor officials on trying to keep the Portales office open so Portales residents looking for unemployment and veteran services won’t have to drive to Clovis.
The New Mexico Department of Labor employees were providing Workforce Investment Act services for people in Portales, such as a one-stop career center to search for jobs through a contract with the Eastern Area Workforce Development Board since 2000. However, the contract was up and the contract bid was from community colleges, such as Clovis Community College and Eastern New Mexico University in Roswell.
Clovis Community College and ENMU-R already staff to provide the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families services, and Department of Labor Deputy Secretary Steve Gallegos said those employees would take on the additional WIA duties.
“The talks were positive and I feel the community is committed to keep it (office) open in Portales,” Gallegos said. “It still provides a lot of services. The mayor came to talk to us and it showed the community cares and wants to keep the office in Portales.”
In a July 4 PNT article, EAWDB chairman Jimmy Schearer said the bid was awarded to the community colleges for budgetary reasons.
Gallegos said losing the contract hurt their budget. He said it could cause the DOL to move its staff to the Clovis office. Gallegos said another budget problem is paying for the rent in the new Business Welcome Center. According to Gallegos, DOL officials were not paying for rent at the memorial building, but in the Business Welcome Center they have to pay $900 a month.
“I’ve had lots of calls about keeping the office in Portales because of the need,” Ortega said. “For the amount of resources (one full-time staff member and one part-time staff member) the results are tremendous. We are going to meet with officials from the chamber of commerce to negotiate the rent. We are very determined to keep the office open.”
Gallegos said he will meet with community college officials in Alamogordo in two weeks to see if some of the DOL employees can be transitioned into working for the community colleges. He said he will visit Portales in August after the meeting in Alamogordo, hopefully with good news.
“We hope to gain support in our meeting in Alamogordo and from businesses,” Gallegos said. “We could get some help from business and the Eastern Area Workforce board and maybe we could talk to officials from the new Welcome Center about reducing the rent.”
Ortega and Gallegos are working to have the budgetary issues resolved by Oct. 1.