Courthouse square plan gets final look

By Karl Terry, PNT Managing Editor

Portales City councilors received one final report Tuesday on the courthouse square streetscape project in preparation for putting the project out for bids later this month.

Portales MainStreet President Danny Woodward presented an updated sketch of the redesigned square. The entities involved ironed out the wrinkles last week in a special meeting and the engineer’s sketch reflected those changes.

The Roosevelt County Commission gave its approval of the new plan Tuesday morning and Woodward said the project is ready to proceed to bid.

“We’re talking about going out for bids in the next 30 days,” Woodward said.

City Manager Debi Lee was even more optimistic, saying the city might be ready to put the project to bid in a little over a week.
“The sooner the better,” Woodward said, on hearing that news.

The city has approximately $900,000 available for the project from a variety of state funding, grants and city matches, including $79,000 leftover from the Portales Transportation Study that can be used for traffic flow and safety items.

“The cost of everything we want to do is greater than our funds,” Lee said. “It’s going to be real close though.”

She told councilors the final engineering would provide optional items that can be eliminated or delayed to meet the project budget.

Lee expects the project to take about 90 days. Because of traffic lanes inside and outside the square, she said during construction downtown business access shouldn’t be a major issue.

Plans call for work to start sometime in September.

In his report, Woodward said losing parking spots had been the biggest issue for county officials. He said the plans show a net loss of three spots, which he said may be made up for in new angle parking areas.

Avenue A and Avenue B along the square will be opened up to two-way traffic as will traffic within the square. The outside of the square will be inset approximately 20 feet on the Main Street side, which will allow angle parking on both sides of Main.

“We’re really hoping that two-way traffic will alleviate some of our crossing problems down on Abilene,” Woodward said.

The New Mexico Department of Transportation has said it will sign off on a traffic light at Second and Main, according to Woodward. He said it may not be put in immediately, however.

Three rows of parking will be provided inside the square on the north side of the courthouse. The south side of the building will have landscaping and open area for public gatherings.

“We’ve still got some nose-to-nose meetings (with business owners) to do,” Lee said. “We want to make certain that everyone is comfortable with everything that is about to happen.”

Portales City Council Meetings Watch

During Tuesday’s regular meeting Portales City Councilors:

• Approved a bid of $234,903 for water line valve installation to provide ways to isolate water main breaks in the future.

The project is one phase of an effort to provide solutions to a 24-inch water main which has ruptured three times in a little over two years. A loop line system will also be installed. The city has said the project should be complete by the end of the year.

• Passed a resolution accepting a $3,400 grant from the state’s Economic Development Department Cooperative Advertising Program. The grant requires a $1,457 match. Community Affairs Coordinator Nicole Wilkening said the city will use the money to promote use of the city’s airport around the region.

• Approved a memorandum of agreement for FY 09 between the Portales Area Transit and New Mexico Department of Transportation. The agreement will provide $55,574 in state funds for the program.

• Formally adopted a new zoning map and heard an annual report from the Planning Commission.

• Awarded the city’s audit contract to Strickler & Prieto of El Paso. City Treasurer Marilyn Rapp told commissioners that the state had informed them that the current auditor would no longer be approved and a new auditor would have to be selected. She said city staff’s evaluation gave the El Paso firm a slight edge over the other company submitting a proposal, Miller & Associates of Roswell.