Portales city council wary of water authority bill

By Clarence Plank: PNT staff writer

Portales city officials are concerned about a legislative bill that would establish a new water authority for eastern New Mexico and give it the right to set sewer rates.

At the Portales City Council meeting Tuesday at City Hall, Mayor Orlando Ortega Jr. expressed his doubts about House Bill 861, which was in committee.

By his interpretation, he said, the new water authority would have the power to control the wastewater system.

However, Councilor Michael Miller, who was participating by telephone from Santa Fe, said there have been changes to the bill, and he has spoken to state Rep. Anna Crook, the bill’s sponsor, about it.

“The way I see it is that they don’t have eminent domain,” Miller said. “They cannot come and take over our wastewater rights or water facility by eminent domain. I think it is clearly spelled out in this bill.”

Miller said what bothers him is that the authority would have the right to set sewer rates and could increase them.

Last November, the council filed a motion opposing the bill.

A special meeting is set for noon Thursday in City Hall to discuss their response to the bill.

In other business, the council:

• approved the animal ordinance changing the definition of a dangerous dog and raising pet license fees.

• passed an amendment to the professional services contract with the State of New Mexico Economic Development Department for the cooperative advertising grant match appropriation.

• heard the annual water report.