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The Artesia City Council heard a presentation Tuesday from the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) on five construction projects in the Artesia area. Among them was the project of greatest import to many in the community: the traffic signal at First Street and Hermosa Drive.

Chronologically, the first two new projects are scheduled to begin Feb. 5 and will include sidewalk work on Main Street (U.S. 82) from Eighth Street to 13th Street and bridge rehabilitation at U.S. 285 and Eagle Draw.

The Main Street project will, according to Constructors Inc., affect Eighth through 13th streets and will include new curbs and gutters, fillets, sidewalks and ramps in order to bring the sidewalks in that area into Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. The estimated cost of that project is $1,028,678.

Alan Briley, NMDOT assistant district engineer – construction, assured the council that barricades would be in place to help pedestrians navigate the construction zones, and access would be available to any businesses affected by the construction as the project moves along Main. Gabriel Ortega, project manager with Constructors Inc., said work zones would cover two blocks at a time, with an estimated completion date of July 23.

Briley also noted, however, that changes would be in store for Artesia Building Supply and its customers.

The hardware store, which is situated on the northeast corner of 13th and Main streets, has a parking area which has long opened onto Main. However, Briley said safety concerns arising from motorists entering from and exiting onto the highway adjacent a traffic signal will prompt the NMDOT to change that configuration.

“When cars pull in and then back straight out into traffic, it’s unsafe, as far as we’re concerned,” Briley said.

Additional details on those changes will be reported as they become available.

The Eagle Draw bridge rehabilitation project, estimated at $1,270,993, will also commence Feb. 5 and is scheduled to last 150 working days.

Francisco Sanchez, assistant district engineer with the NMDOT, said Hasse Contracting Co. will be conducting that work and will attempt to minimize the impact on motorists by having at least one lane moving both north and south throughout the duration of the project.

On March 23, the most extensive of the projects will begin: ADA pedestrian improvement work along First Street (U.S. 285) from Hermosa Drive to Richey Avenue. As reported in Tuesday’s Daily Press, that project will include reconstruction of intersection corners – including sidewalk, ramp, curb and gutter work – upgrade of pedestrian buttons, signage adjustments, and striping.

Estimated at $4,098,443, the project will last an estimated 180 working days.

“There is going to be a little inconvenience,” Briley said.

According to the NMDOT’s release, motorists can expect one-lane closures and short delays between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays in construction zones, which will move in phases along First Street. Access to business and residential areas, as well as pedestrian access, will be maintained.

More details about that project will be available as the start date approaches.

The final new project will be bridge preservation at U.S. 285 and the Rio Felix and U.S. 82 and the Rio Pecos, estimated at $399,138 and scheduled to begin April 6. That project has a 60-day estimate and will consist, Sanchez said, of simple maintenance, with motorists asked to obey all lane closures, whether diverted or navigated by pilot car.

The fifth project Briley addressed was the ongoing U.S. 82 reconstruction project east of Artesia. When that roadwork began in 2017, it came with a projected winter of 2019 completion estimate.

“We’re hoping that this year, we will be able to complete this project and get out of your way,” Briley said. “We have exhausted all of our contractual time. The contractor has a method for how they’re going to proceed, they get to one spot, and what happens is we find a utility that has not been relocated yet or has been undiscovered by our utility consultants, so they say, ‘We can’t finish up here, let’s go over here.’ And then it’s the same thing for 33 miles.

“We understand the complaints that it creates delays, it creates monetary delays, so we’re working hard with them to try and resolve some of these things.”

Briley said that, although the project has been ongoing for two years now, there are still utility companies that have yet to move their equipment in the Loco Hills area, preventing construction crews from completing their work in sequence.

“We’ve just had to kind of jump around, hop and skip,” said Briley. “Everything has been in some sort of delay for us.”

“Despite all of our complaints, we do appreciate the fact that you would come and let us know what’s coming,” said Mayor Raye Miller. “That way, later on, when people come talk to us, we can say, ‘Hey, remember 82? This one’s going to be a short time frame.”

Miller also asked specifically about the traffic signal at First and Hermosa, which is included in the U.S. 285 project running from Hermosa to Richey. While Briley said its installation would not take place until near the end of that project, Ortega confirmed that the light would be in place before 2021, likely toward the end of November or first of December.

In other business Tuesday, the council approved a request from the Changing Lives Coalition for the use of Jaycee Park and the John R. Gray Girls’ Fastpitch Complex from 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday, March 7, for a Spring Showdown Softball Tournament.

The council additionally approved amendments to the Uniform Traffic Code and Penalty Assessment Ordinance, which will be detailed in Sunday’s edition of the Daily Press.

As part of its consent agenda, the council granted permission for:

• approval of a lease agreement with First American Bank for 119 S. Roselawn Ave., Ste. 307.

• the reappointment of Sharon Snowden, Lynn Atteberry and Jerry Terpening to the Artesia Cemetery Board, terms to expire January 2022.

• the ratification to hire Jadrien Reza as a Water Department technician at a pay rate of $2,482 per month; Christopher Garcia as a Facilities Maintenance Department Community Improvement Technician I, $1,988; and Julius Goodart as a Commission on Aging Van Driver I, $1,757.

• the hiring of Cynthia Martinez as a Finance and Administration Department assistant city clerk/records supervisor, $3,422; Jerry West as a Commission on Aging Van Driver I, $1,757; and Mayra Godoy as a Commission on Aging clerk/dispatcher, $1,988.

• the failure to complete probation period of Derrick Cumpston, water technician, effective Jan. 13.

• the resignation of David Brazas, Solid Waste Department equipment operator, effective Jan. 15.

• the resignation of Cody Smothermon, wastewater assistant, effective Jan. 31.

• the resignation of Misael Torrez, police corporal, effective Jan. 31.

• the setting of a public hearing for Feb. 25 for consideration of an ordinance for the final plat for the Artesia Improvement Company, Block 44 replat and partial roadway vacation on the south side of Missouri Avenue between Seventh and Eighth streets, owned by Hermosa, LLC.

• one planning employee to attend EDU Code training in Las Vegas, Nev.

• three police employees to attend the NASRO Conference in Dallas, Texas. Costs will be reimbursed by the Artesia Public Schools in accordance with a Memorandum of Understanding.

• one wastewater employee to attend the NMWWA Awards Banquet in Las Cruces as recipient of the Wastewater Lab Tech of the Year.

• one infrastructure employee to attend a grant management class in El Paso, Texas.

• one police employee to instruct training at the Hobbs Academy in Hobbs.

• one fire employee to attend New Mexico Partners in Preparedness training in Albuquerque.

• one police employee to participate in online IR8000 recertification.

• one solid waste employee to attend a NMED grant writing class in Albuquerque.

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