City council supports formation of new regional water authority

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior staff writer

The Portales City Council voted Tuesday to support the formation of a new regional water authority, under certain conditions.

The council approved a resolution supporting House Bill 15, in its current state, which would establish an Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority to manage the Ute Water Pipeline project. The vote was unanimous with Councilors Alfredo Bachicha Jr., Shawn Watson and Michael Miller absent.

At the suggestion of City Attorney Stephen Doerr, the council added the condition that their support came only for the current wording of the bill. The bill includes wording by city representatives to keep the suggested water authority from being able to control the Portales water and wastewater systems.

Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega Jr. said there was nothing wrong with the resolution except that it supported the water authority.

“I think it’s premature, personally, as mayor,” he said.

Ortega said the resolution wouldn’t hurt the city, but he believed a water authority shouldn’t form at this point.

Also, Ortega said the idea for the Ute Water Pipeline was introduced about 45 years ago and is almost unaffordable now. He said he didn’t want to lose hope, but he wanted to be sure the project wouldn’t break the community.

Ortega changed the language of the resolution to indicate support as long as the cost-share formula for the project involved 75 percent of the money coming from the federal government, 15 percent from the state and 10 percent from local governments.

In other business, the council:

• Postponed a public hearing on a zoning change from commericial to residential for property on Industrial Drive until they could get more details from the developer.

• Approved extending a contract with Danny Heflin Builders for continued renovations to the Yam Movie Palace. Planning Director Sammy Standefer said the extension of $60,000 would allow workers to bring the Yam to a usable state and leave $27,000 in grant money. He planned to continue to improve the theater after it was usable.

• Approved a preliminary plat for the Combs Subdivision Unit 2 off 22nd Street and N.M. 206.

• Approved poll workers and their pay for March elections.