City councilors concerned about water utility’s authority

Jared Tucker

Two Portales city councilors are concerned about how much power the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority will have, and why there’s only one elected official representing the city.

The authority meets 10 a.m. Thursday in Texico.

Councilor Mike Miller said Tuesday he thinks the utility will take important decisions about water issues away from the Portales City Council.

“City council was elected to make decisions in regard to water, water rates, indebtedness of the city and that sort of thing, and by this authority now, were giving that up,” Miller said.

Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield said the authority is necessary in order to receive federal money to pay for most of the $500 million Ute Water project.

The authority is responsible for the Ute Water Project, a pipeline that would bring water from the Ute Reservoir in Quay County to the authority’s member entities.

Members include Clovis, Grady, Elida, Melrose, Portales, Texico and Curry County.

Portales Councilor Oscar Robinson’s echoed Miller’s concerns.

“Our position is weak,” Robinson said, referring to the panel that makes up the authority. Robinson said since the Roosevelt County Commission opted not to be a part of the authority, the city should get more votes.

“We acquired the county’s right in the authority, so we should be a double entity,” Robinson said.

Robinson and Miller also have a problem, they said, with Mayor Sharon King’s nomination of City Manager Tom Howell to represent Portales on the water authority.

Both councilors voted against appointing Howell and King to the water authority to represent Portales, during a city council meeting July 6.

“My vote wasn’t about those two individuals at all,” he said. “I have a problem putting an appointed official on a board like that, because he has no responsibility to anyone except the city council,” Miller said. “I have a responsibility to the voters, and the mayor has a responsibility to the voters,” he added.

City Manager Tom Howell declined comment.