Back to drawing board for downtown parking

Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer

The Roosevelt County Commission voted Tuesday to re-install 230 linear feet of parking on the Second Street side of the County Courthouse parking lot.

Commissioners approved the change on a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Gene Creighton cast the dissenting vote.

Creighton said he believed 80 percent of county citizens are against spending the money to again redesign the parking.

The recent parking lot remodel moved spaces to other areas of the lot and took out three spaces. Some merchants have protested that the parking situation is hurting their business.

Commissioner Bill Cathey said he received an estimate of between $26,000 and $27,000 for concrete to restore the spaces. With donations, which some Second Street businesses have offered, he suggested that the project could be completed for $20,000.

“My desire as a commissioner is to do what’s best for the county as a whole,” he said.

Cathey said he thought the county would have to reinstall parking later at a higher cost if it didn’t do the work now.

Kathie Good, who lives on N.M. 267 but helped plan the downtown renovations, said public hearings and planning sessions were widely advertised and business owners would have had to have their “heads in the sand” to not know about them.

No businesses opposed the plans during the design process.

Randy Knudson, county attorney and president of the Portales MainStreet board, said too much time and taxpayer money has been spent to go back on plans.

“If we had known, back then, about these issues, they could have been addressed. But they weren’t,” he said.

Knudson supported painting in five more parking spaces in the lot along Second Street.

Also, he said if plans were changed, the project might lose hundreds of thousands in stimulus money the City of Portales had obtained. A change would mean officials would have to re-apply for the money, he said.

Buz Goodson, owner of Bar G Western and Casual Wear on Second Street, said eight of nine businesses across Second from the courthouse wanted more parking.

“Our businesses are hurting now,” he said.

David Stone, president of Portales National Bank, said people weren’t going to learn to walk a block to businesses and he never dreamed the stop signs at Second and Main Street would back up traffic badly.

Good said the parking lot isn’t the only problem with slow business.

In other business, the commission:

• approved a supplemental sole community payment request from Roosevelt General Hospital. The county provides about $86,000 in matching funds so the hospital can receive $420,000 from the state.

• awarded a bid for four four-by-four three-quarter-ton pickup trucks to lowest bidder Rich Ford Sales in Albuquerque for $23,400 per truck.

• voted to piggyback on a Socorro County bid to purchase a tanker truck for the Arch Volunteer Fire Department using $154,000 in grant money.

• voted to have County Manager Charlene Hardin look into $2.5 million in Economic Development Recovery Zone Bonds to pay for an indoor arena at the Roosevelt County Fairgrounds. The tax credit program takes the form of loans with 3 percent to 4 percent interest, Hardin said.

• heard the state Department of Finance and Administration had approved the final budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year.