City councilors vote to borrow money to make waterline fix

Sarah Meyer

The city of Portales will pursue a $2 million loan for water line improvements.

City councilors voted Tuesday to accept City Manager Debi Lee’s recommendation for the funding, which will be used to install at least four valves in a 24-inch water line that runs roughly along U.S. 70 on the west side of town and to build a loop line on the southwest side of the city.

The improvements will help limit water loss and shutoff to customers in the event of a waterline break. The line has broken three times in the past two years, most recently in April.

The state Rural Infrastructure Program loan “allows us to move quickly without the NEPA (National Environmental Protection Act) process,” said Lee. Tuesday’s action allows the city to formalize its loan application.

Public Works Director Tom Howell said Smith Engineering is 80 percent complete with plans for the waterline improvements, which may also include valves on a 16-inch and 12-inch line.

When the valves are installed, temporary “water stops” will be placed in the line to prevent or greatly reduce water shutoff for customers, Howell said.

Lee said the city is working on an “aggressive” public information plan, including radio spots and press releases. Customers who may be affected by the work also will be notified in advance if possible, she said.

Loan proceeds will be available in six weeks, Lee said.

Howell said the valves should be installed within 90 days after bid approval.

Loan payments of $134,431 will begin one year after the project is complete. Funding for the payments will come from water rate increases that already are planned, Lee said.

The city also is applying for grants for the project, which would be used toward repayment of the loan, she said.

In other action, councilors:

• Approved acceptance of a $9,600 New Mexico Clean and Beautiful grant

• Approved White Cloud Pipeline’s bid of $198,000 to convert two agricultural wells to municipal wells

• Approved a wind tower ordinance, limiting the height and placement of windmills

• Appointed Councilor Shawn Watson to serve on the Board of Portales Retirement Corp. (Golden Acres Retirement Apartments)

• Discussed water conservation