By Leslie Radford: CNJ Staff writer
New Mexico’s highway department has been mowing grass and trimming trees along U.S. Highway 60/84 between Clovis and Cannon Air Force Base the last few days. State Highway 523 between Clovis and the municipal airport is also receiving a cleanup.
State officials said the cleanup is routine — and the timing is intended to make the area look nice for dignitaries expected in the region this week.
The Base Realignment and Closure hearing scheduled Friday in Clovis is expected to attract governors, high-ranking military officials and numerous congressional delegates from at least three states.
“We try to keep on top of keeping the highways maintained,” said Lee Marquez, acting foreman for the highway department. “We’re a little behind, but since the BRAC commissioners and the governor are coming to town certain areas are more pressing than others (to clean up) right now.”
The city of Clovis and Curry County are also sprucing up for the visitors, who are expected to include New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a half-dozen BRAC commissioners and possibly Arizona Sen. John McCain.
Clovis’ Public Works Administrator Ramona Frogge said the city is focusing its cleanup this week on north Prince Street and Commerce Way, where a parade of people is expected to line the path from La Quinta Inn — where BRAC commissioners are staying on Thursday night — to Marshall Junior High, where the hearing takes place beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Friday
“It is a little more pressing to clean up the town now that the BRAC commissioners are coming, but it’s something that we do all the time,” Frogge said.
Youth groups throughout Curry County have been picking up trash along U.S. Highway 84 as well, according to Twila Rutter, Curry County special projects coordinator.
Rutter said grant money through Keep Clovis Beautiful was used to pay groups to clean up certain areas for the past few days, but not just because the BRAC commissioners are coming. Rutter said the cleanup is part of a project started several years ago in maintaining the medians between Clovis and Cannon.
“I used to take squadrons (from Cannon) out there to pick up trash along the highway until a new commander came along and I didn’t have the volunteer help necessary to keep up with that project,” Rutter said. “The BRAC commissioners’ visit did play a role in us focusing on that area (in recent days), but it was also part of the beautification program we would have done anyway.”
Marquez said he’s just following orders from headquarters in Roswell and has not heard any complaints from area citizens about the clean-up efforts.
But at least one Clovis man said he’s annoyed by the timing of the work.
“I have never seen them trim the trees in the 43 years that I have been here,” said Steven Vaughan, a 43-year-old civilian who works at a barber shop at Cannon.
“I’m not really upset that they’re finally cleaning up Clovis. … It’s like they’re trying to show off for these BRAC commissioners when this is something they should have been doing all along.”
Vaughan said he is a strong supporter of Cannon and hopes the base can be removed from the Department of Defense’s targeted closure list.
“I’m not trying to make anyone mad,” he said, “but I think people should have enough pride in Clovis to have done this a long time ago — not wait until the last minute trying to impress someone.”