City officials hope to see stimulus money

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

Officials in Portales are hoping to see money from the federal economic stimulus package, but they don’t know exactly what they will get.

The Reinvestment and Recovery Act, signed in February, appropriated money for a variety of things.

“The purpose of the Reinvestment and Recovery Act is to stimulate the economy, basically replace consumer demand with government spending,” said James Lee, chairman of the Roosevelt County Democrat Party.

That act is different from the Omnibus Spending Bill, which is the combined budgets of various government departments, Lee said.

Portales City Manager Debi Lee knew of some funds the city would receive, but employees were still applying for more.

She expects the city to get $247,000 to spend in the next year for improvements on U.S. 70.

“We’re going to use it to finish the plan around Courthouse Square,” Lee said.

The work includes crosswalks, decorative lighting, sidewalks and features to connect the area with Eastern New Mexico University.

Also, the Portales Police Department is in line to get $20,000 to fight crime. Lee said the department isn’t receiving much money in that area because Portales has a low crime rate.

The city is also applying for money to hire new police officers or continue with positions it can’t afford now. Lee said that funding is awarded through a competitive process.

“And then our No. 1 priority is the wastewater treatment plant,” she said.

From the stimulus package, Lee hopes to obtain $7 million to $8 million of the total $22 million cost.

For the proposed wastewater treatment plant, the city is applying for funding to implement a system to reuse cleaned wastewater to irrigate parks and athletic fields.

“We’re submitting anything and everything we feel is going to benefit the community,” she said.

County Manager Charlene Hardin was less confident about the county’s piece of the stimulus pie.

“We’re not really expecting anything,” she said.

Hardin thought it was premature to count on funding.

The county might serve as the lead agency on improvements on N.M. 88 and might look into a grant to help support staffing the Sheriff’s Office, she said.

ENMU President Steven Gamble also wasn’t sure of what funds would come directly to his institution, but he said students would benefit from the stimulus act.

“As of right now, we don’t have any idea of what specific money will come to ENMU as a result of the stimulus package,” he said.

However, Gamble said the Recovery and Reinvestment Act increased funding for pell grants and work-study programs, which would benefit students.

Although Gamble is hoping to receive more money from the stimulus package, he is waiting for the application guidelines to come out in a few weeks.