. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

13th Street bridge project reportedly ending

Infrastructure Director Byron Landfair indicated crews would be wrapping up work on the Eagle Draw bridge on North 13th Street today. (Teresa Lemon – Daily Press)

The Artesia City Council will hold a public hearing next month as it works to determine the future of its policy on industrial water sales.

The Infrastructure Department called a recent meeting in response to inquiries from the New Mexico Department of Transportation – which is currently engaged in the ongoing renovation of U.S. 82 east of Artesia – as to Artesia’s rates for the sale of construction water.

Infrastructure Director Byron Landfair told the council Tuesday that whereas nearby companies in the business of selling water were charging rates between $17 and $18 per 1,000 gallons, Artesia’s rate is currently around $2.50.

Landfair said the department and the Infrastructure Committee essentially discussed two directions: either stop selling water outside the city limits or raise the cost of that water to $20 per 1,000 gallons.

“It’s important to note, too, that the water for this community is a resource of this community, and we kind of need to figure out if we even want to go outside the city limits with it or not,” Landfair said.

The infrastructure director said this was the first large-scale project of which he is aware that has contacted the city about purchasing water.

Councilor Raul Rodriguez said he had heard from two individuals, one who resides on the Lovington Highway and another within Artesia, asking why the city would provide water to “the state,” particularly at a low rate.

Rodriguez said the constituents also raised the subject of the city in essence competing with businesses that sell water for construction purposes.

“We’ve always had a philosophy within ourselves that the city doesn’t want to have a program or something to compete with private enterprise,” said Rodriguez.

Councilor Kent Bratcher agreed.

“I would rather us not be in the predicament of being in competition with someone – as far as selling water – that’s just right down the road from the city limits,” Bratcher said.

Mayor Pro-Tem Terry Hill, chairman of the Infrastructure Committee said that while conservation of the city’s water resources was a key component of the discussion, the committee had also considered funding needs that could be addressed with money earned from the sale of water.

“Here’s an opportunity that we only have a window of six to eight months before they’re so far out that they’ll be using other sources,” Hill said. “So the question was, should we accept this and pursue this opportunity to generate revenue for the Water Department and what have you?”

Mayor Phillip Burch indicated he agreed with Landfair in that the city’s water is a commodity it should strongly consider keeping to itself.

“I understand the aspect of saying, ‘Let’s not compete with local industry,’” said the mayor. “I kind of refer to that in a different way and say the water system that we built in the City of Artesia was built by the residents and taxpayers of Artesia, and it’s not in their best interest to sell this water outside this city.

“It is for the use and the betterment of the community, and to me, that’s what I focus on when I want to make an opinion on this.”

The council set a date of Sept. 12 for a public hearing on the subject. Burch also told councilors that, should they want to discuss the matter further at their next regularly-scheduled meeting Aug. 22, it could be added to the agenda.

In other infrastructure business, Landfair addressed the construction work on the Eagle Draw bridge along North 13th Street.

Landfair said crews out Tuesday morning were working to smooth the large bump that existed on the south side of the bridge and that they would complete their bridge work this week.

“They’ll be out there on Thursday to do the rest of the sealing of the deck, which is the epoxy that you see that goes on there, along with a little bit of gravel to provide some coarseness to it,” said Landfair. “So they’ll do that on Thursday and it’ll be complete.”

Landfair also notified the council a crew will be closing the area of 13th Street and Grand Avenue from 9 a.m. – noon Friday for street maintenance. Councilor Jeff Youtsey pointed out that the large pothole on the northern corner of the four-way stop just east of the Artesia High School main office – the result of a large hole that previously existed in the roadway and was filled – is growing deeper, and Landfair said his department would look into it.

Convening as the Zoning Board of Appeals to start Tuesday’s meeting, the council heard from local resident Jerron Madrid, who was seeking permission to erect a structure in the backyard of his home at 1601 W. Bullock Ave. that would be used for softball practices.

In order to construct the building at the angle Madrid desired – running north and south along the edge of his backyard – a variance of 210 square feet over the maximum 30 percent of the space allowed in the city code was requested.

Community Development Director Jim McGuire told the council he and his staff had recommended denying the request, as code states a variance may be permitted “where there is an exceptional or unusual physical condition of a lot.”

“We didn’t see that the lot was unusual,” McGuire said, stating that if the building were turned to run east to west, it would only require a variance of 10 square feet.

“My reasoning for the building running north and south is to still allow me some room for yardage, for grass, in the backyard,” said Madrid. “If I turned it the other way, it would almost eliminate every bit of my grass in the backyard.”

Madrid also pointed out that, were the structure turned east/west, he would run into the issue of the garage doors intended for ventilation use facing the alley; city code states such doors must be 20 feet away from the alley.

“I’ve done everything the city’s asked,” said Madrid, noting he had discussed the matter with his neighbors before beginning to plan the building, had purchased the building, which he will bolt together himself, had arranged for the concrete base work to be done by a local company, and had spoken with all relevant inspectors.

Despite the Community Development staff recommendation, when the variance request was brought before the Planning & Zoning Commission, it was unanimously approved.

McGuire said he was unsure of the particular reason given by the commission for going against staff recommendations.

“The comment the applicant made that there are many properties in town where accessory structures exceed the 30 percent in the rear yard, that is true,” McGuire admitted, however. “And that’s happened over the years.”

Some members of the council expressed concern with the fact the Planning & Zoning Commission seemed to be passing such issues along to the council to, as Councilor Luis Florez put it, “be the bad guy,” but ultimately, Madrid’s request was unanimously approved.

“The type of building you’re building could be taken apart,” said Councilor Jeff Youtsey. “If somebody doesn’t like it, they can take it down. Either way you set it obviously doesn’t matter to your neighbors, since none of them are here. Either direction you put it meets the fire code, and it’s your house.”

Burch thanked Madrid for following all the correct steps throughout the process.

In other business Tuesday, the council approved the hiring of Jessica Paschal, Teen Librarian II, at a rate of $2,951 per month; Ryan Hagedorn, Community Service Officer I, $2,037 per month; and James Leachman, Recreation Specialist I, $2,305 per month.

The council also granted permission to advertise and fill the position of Community Service Officer.

McGuire additionally pointed out that construction on the Roselawn Manor affordable housing project is moving swiftly along, with a move-in date still listed at Sept. 19, and the council approved the setting of a special meeting for 6 p.m. Aug. 15 to address a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration.

As part of its consent agenda, the council approved:

• the addition of Tammy Brown, police department administrative assistant, to the State Forfeiture and Federal Forfeiture accounts at First American Bank.

• 2017-18 outside request PSAs for Paws & Claws, Artesia Clean & Beautiful, Artesia MainStreet, Artesia Drug & Crime Coalition, Artesia Department of Development, My Neighborhood, and Artesia Advocacy Group/Chaves County CASA.

• the appointment of Mayor Phillip Burch as a voting delegate for the 2017 New Mexico Municipal League annual business meeting.

• permission for one police employee to attend basic crime scene investigations training in Roswell.

• permission for two police employees to attend interviewing transnational offenders training in Artesia.

• permission for one police employee to attend conducting pre-employment background investigations training in Albuquerque.

• permission for one executive employee to attend the NMML Annual Conference in Clovis.

• permission for one garage employee to attend the ASE recertification in Roswell.

• permission for one police employee to attend the NMML Annual Conference in Clovis.

• ratification of Burch’s approval for one police employee to attend the Intoxilyzer 8000 key operator course in Albuquerque.

• permission for one planning employee to attend the APA Annual Conference in Silver City.

• permission for one executive employee to attend the Mayors’ Summit in Albuquerque.