By Tony Parra
Scott Verhines of the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority updated the city council on Tuesday on the status of the Ute Water Project and the objective of a series of workshops.
Verhines said the first workshop took place in Roosevelt County and it is the first in a series of workshops, which will also be held in Quay and Curry County. Verhines said today there will be a workshop in the Clovis-Carver Public Library in Clovis at 1 p.m. He also said Sen. Jeff Bingaman will be at the library at 1:30 p.m. for a question and answer segment for the public on water issues.
Verhines said Bingaman introduced a bill to the project authorization in early June.
“We provided testimony in Washington D.C. in the middle of June,” Verhines said. “It was a major step for the program. They (legislators) did not take action, but we are keeping our fingers crossed that they’ll do it.”
Mayor Orlando Ortega said he met with Verhines, Roosevelt County commissioners and Elida officials in the afternoon to discuss the Ute Water Project.
“Sen. Bingaman had some questions the (ENMRWA) members will have to answer,” Verhines said. “First, are the members committed to the water project, financially? Second, are the members going to come up with a solid plan of maintenance for the project?”
Verhines wants to ask those questions during the workshops. He said the ENMRWA members are working with officials from each county for a financial plan. He said he would like to have workshops for the city councilors to go more into detail regarding the Ute Water Project options.
In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, the council announced that railroad construction will be taking place on Monday after months of working out details. City Manager Debi Lee said the plan is for state highway department officials to create detours shortly after 9 a.m. on Monday and close the railroad crossing on N. Main. She said the plan is for the crossing on N. Main to be closed for one week while construction is being done.
Lee said the following week, those effort will shift to the crossing on N. Ave. B. She said the state employees will work on the planking, while city employees will work on the approaches.
Lee also said there will be a open public meeting to be held on Thursday at city hall at 9:30 a.m. with New Mexico Department of Labor officials.
“They agreed to come to Portales,” Lee said. “They haven’t made a decision yet on whether to keep the Portales office open. They’re still looking for ways to finance the department of labor. We expect to have a good turnout. We need to have a good turnout to show the support we have for the office.”
Deputy Secretary of the New Mexico Department of Labor Steve Gallegos said if the department doesn’t have a financial solution in place by the end of September, the DOL office in Portales will be closed on Oct. 1.
Gary Williamson spoke during the “Citizens to Be Heard” session of the meeting about a few concerns bothering him. One concern dealt with the timeframe of the railroad construction and another dealt with the stoplight at Highway 70 and W. University.
Williamson said the problem is when he is stopped on the right lane of Highway 70 heading towards Roswell and wants to make a right turn, other drivers pull up next to him on the parking lane to make a right turn. The parking area is for Eastern New Mexico University. He said he has called city and state officials about the problem and feels that there should be a sign or designation.
“There needs to be a sign that says it’s not a turn lane, before we have an accident,” Williamson said. “I almost got into an accident when this guy cut me off when I was turning right.”