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Mayor Phillip Burch announced Tuesday that, barring any unexpected certification issues and/or write-in candidates, Raye Miller will be Artesia’s next mayor come the March 6 municipal election.

The Artesia City Council took a look at the candidates who have thrown their hats in the ring for mayor and the four city council seats up for election at the end of Tuesday’s regularly-scheduled meeting at City Hall.

Miller, president of Regeneration Energy Corp., is the only individual currently on the ballot for mayor. Burch will not be seeking reelection.

In District 1, incumbent Raul Rodriguez will be running against challenger Delia Cortez Collier; incumbent Kent Bratcher will run opposite challenger Tommy Bailes in District 3; and incumbent Terry Hill will see challenges from Kenneth Hart and Kevin Baggerly in District 4. In District 2, Michael Mondragon is currently unopposed for the seat that will be vacated by Nora Sanchez. Sanchez came out of retirement to finish out the term of former councilor Jose Luis Aguilar following his death in August 2016.

Write-in candidates for any of the above positions may file Tuesday, Jan. 16. Applications for absentee ballots will be accepted beginning Jan. 30, and early voting will be held Feb. 14 – March 2 at City Hall.

Polls for the municipal election will be open from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 6, and Artesians may vote at the location of their choice: the Senior Center or Faith Baptist Church.

The council began its first meeting of 2018 Tuesday with a public hearing regarding a proposed ordinance approving a Public Participation Agreement (PPA) between the City of Artesia and Chase Petroleum Services & Supply (CPSS).

The PPA is something economic development director Michael Bunt says the city has been working on for some time. Through it, the city will pledge $500,000 in stimulus funds from the Greater Artesia Economic Development Corporation (GAEDC) account to CPSS, which encompasses the affiliate businesses of Mack Energy Corp., and in return CPSS commits to creating 80 new jobs in the Artesia area – paying an average wage of at least $65,000 – over a three-year period.

Bunt told the council that, based on the current economic climate, the number of jobs created could be exponentially more. CPSS has already increased from 278 employees on Jan. 1, 2017, to 417 as of Jan. 1 of this year.

“The economic impact of that in our area is, frankly, hard to quantify, because it’s big,” Bunt said.

Bunt also said the GAEDC anticipates approximately 40 new “indirect” jobs could be created in the private sector, induced by the money new employees of CPSS would be spending in the community.

In addition, Bunt said one of the CPSS companies, Elite Well Services, would likely be generating anywhere from $750,000 to $1.25 million a year in gross receipts funds for the City of Artesia as a direct result of the deal.

“$500 grand will be, I think, the largest funding that I’m aware of that’s come out of this, but I think the numbers well warrant it,” Bunt said.

Councilor Jeff Youtsey asked Bunt about the fact most of the CPSS businesses are located in the county and would therefore not be generating gross receipts revenue for Artesia.

“Whether they were located in the city or the county, we wouldn’t really get much in gross receipts anyway just because of the tax law,” Bunt said. “They’re taxed differently. Even if all seven were located in the city limits, it’s not going to change the gross receipts picture too much.”

Mayor Pro-Tem Terry Hill expressed his concern that, with housing still an issue in Artesia, many of the new employees could be joining “the car parade to Roswell.”

“It would be a dream come true if we could keep making jobs here in town and also have houses for these people here, get their kids in the schools, get them to plant here instead of with our neighbors,” Hill said.

Bunt agreed Artesia’s housing situation continues not to be ideal but said with the construction of the Canyonstone Apartments and the Roselawn Manor affordable housing project, “some pretty decent progress” is being made.

“Do we have another 2,000 houses sitting here waiting for people? Nope,” Bunt said. “Trying to keep housing in step with growth in the economy is difficult.”

“When you look at Par Five and Elite and Silver Oak and those other (CPSS) companies, the ones that reside physically in Riverside, their employees, for the most part, are Artesia residents,” Burch said, “so that’s the key to it is getting the dollars in the hands of residents here in Artesia so they can generate sales that generate GRT for the city.”

The council unanimously approved the ordinance.

In the personnel portion of Tuesday’s meeting, the council approved the hiring of Amber Denton, police detention officer, at a pay rate of $2,363 per month, and the promotion of Richard Acosta to street supervisor, $3,609 per month.

Permission was also granted to advertise and fill the positions of fire lieutenant and parks foreman.

Community Development director Jim McGuire informed the council code enforcement met with facilities maintenance Monday regarding the removal of the RV, vehicles, and other items located on the recently-seized lot at 1006 W. Washington Ave., and that Roselawn Manor is officially at full occupancy, with an open house planned for February.

On the topic of RVs, Councilor Kent Bratcher broached the subject of such vehicles parked in the front yards of residences.

McGuire said around 80 homeowners with RVs located in their yards were contacted by mail two years ago, informing them they had two years to make other arrangements for the RVs. McGuire says that two-year grace period was up in October 2017, and the city can now begin discussions on how to best enforce the requirement.

Infrastructure director Byron Landfair told the council a water line break at 10th Street and Cannon Avenue Tuesday resulted when six feet at the top of a six-inch cast-iron line “completely blew off.” That had since been resolved, but Water Department crews were still working on another line break on South First Street near Tate Branch Dodge.

Landfair said the line in the area of 10th Street had been repaired, according to patches counted by water crews, 12 times, and the line near Tate Branch Dodge was undergoing its fourth repair in six years.

“We’re going to have to get out there and start replacing some of these lines,” he said.

Landfair also told the council crews working on the rehabilitation of Sixth Street between Main Street and Texas Avenue had “hit a snag” in the form of an old, underground oil tank, the existence of which the city was unaware.

Bratcher posited the tank was likely a remnant of Dunn’s Garage. Landfair said the city is currently working with the New Mexico Environment Department regarding steps for its removal.

As part of its consent agenda, the council approved:

• a contract with James Cooke & Hobson Inc. for Flygt pumps and parts for the Water/Wastewater Departments.

• a contract with Buildology Inc. for proprietary infield mix for Jaycee Park for the Infrastructure Department.

• the reappointments of Ron Davis, Kelcey George, Charlie Holder and Betty Price to the Artesia Historical Museum Commission (terms to expire January 2020).

• the retirement of Richard Lindberg, fire lieutenant, effective Jan. 31.

• ratification of Burch’s approval for a public hearing to be held Jan. 23 for consideration of Case No. 17-05, vacation of five feet of public right-of-way along the east side of the 100 block of South 11th Street (public right-of-way between Blocks 1 and 2 of the Forest Hill Addition; requestors: Wendtesia, LLC, and the Artesia Public Schools; right-of-way owner: City of Artesia).

• ratification of Burch’s approval for a public hearing to be held Jan. 23 for consideration of Case No. 17-06, a street name change for the 1400 block of South Runyan Avenue; proposed new name: “Adams Drive” (public right-of-way between Lots 3-5 of Block 3 and Lots 10-12 of Block 4 of the replat of the correction plat – West Acres Subdivision #7; requestors: city staff and residents; right-of-way owner: City of Artesia).

• permission for one Artesia Clean & Beautiful employee to attend the Keep America Beautiful Annual Conference in Dallas, Texas.

• ratification of Burch’s approval for one police employee to attend School Behavioral Threat Assessment training in Clovis.

• permission for one police employee to attend the New Mexico Association of Chiefs of Police meeting in Santa Fe.

• permission for one fire employee to attend the Fire Department Safety Officer Annual Health and Safety Forum in Scottsdale, Ariz.

• permission for one police employee to attend the Conducting Pre-Employment Background Investigations course in Albuquerque.

• permission for two police employees to attend Crash Report – Getting It Right training in Artesia.

• permission for one planning employee to attend the 2018 EduCode conference in Las Vegas, Nev.