Marlena Hartz : Freedom Newspapers
Cannon Air Force Base is poised to double in size, as Gov. Bill Richardson has pledged millions in his capital outlay plan for expansion and infrastructure improvements at the recently jeopardized military installation.
Richardson announced Wednesday a pledge of $5 million in capital outlay funds to purchase land adjacent to Cannon, as well as to develop water and wastewater infrastructure at the base. The announcement came just hours before Richardson arrived by plane in Clovis for dinner with an assistant secretary of the Air Force, William Anderson, and other local officials.
The governor said he will pitch the proposal for funds during the January legislative session. Legislative approval, Richardson said, is fairly certain and should be obtained by the middle of February. He said $4 million would be used for land acquisition and the remainder for infrastructure improvements.
State Rep. Brian Moore, R-Clayton, said he agrees lawmakers would likely approve the governor’s proposal.
“I can’t speak for everybody in the Legislature, but I think if there’s a way to keep Cannon and this is what it took, I think there’d be some pretty good support for that,” Moore said.
The 30-day legislative session begins Jan. 17.
According to Richardson, military officials have expressed concern over lack of land for expansion and water woes repeatedly, including during the Base Realignment and Closure final hearing held in Virginia, at which federal commissioners spared Cannon from closure.
Richardson said an improved water system and additional land will make Cannon more suitable for the joint military missions many have buzzed about attracting since a federal commission stripped the base of its jet squadrons and Pentagon officials were asked by commissioners to find a new base mission. Some estimate the base contributes more than 30 percent to the regional economy, a portion Richardson said is important to preserve, even when others in the state clamor for capital outlay dollars.
“Cannon is the economic heart of eastern New Mexico. It is essential we retain the base,” Richardson said, calling its perseverance his top capital outlay priority.