By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer
A chapter characterized by contingency and deliberation ended Tuesday when Curry County commissioners voted 4-1 to construct a special events center on the west side of the county fairgrounds.
The vote reverses an early June decision, which laid plans for east-side construction.
Tuesday’s vote erased the east-side plans.
Construction on the multi-purpose center, designed to attract thousands in revenue for the county, along with a wide array of events and entertainers, will begin in the spring, County Manager Dick Smith said.
County Commission Chairman Ed Perales, who voted against the early June plan, said the commission simply did not have enough time to review a revised Schlegal Lewis Architect plan, which shows equal price tags of about $6.7 million for east- and west-side development. The major difference in cost between the proposed sites lies in the various phases of the projects, but the information was presented too late for the commissioners to analyze it properly, according to Perales. He added the action item to Tuesday’s agenda and said impetus to reverse the earlier vote wasn’t monetary.
“Our constituents said the west side. Our higher elected officials said the west side … I felt we did a dishonor to state elected officials in the area,” Perales said of the early June vote. “I am ready to have an events center. I would hope our community is supportive of it on the west side.”
Chairman of the special events center committee and Commissioner Pete Hulder voted against the west-side center. Attempts to reach Hulder after Tuesday’s meeting were unsuccessful. Curry County Clerk Mario Trujillo said minutes for the meeting indicated Hulder voted against the reversal because the $4.25 million in available funding would be better used for construction on the east side — which Hulder opined could be completed in a more timely, and therefore more cost-effective manner.
Although debate over where to place the center is not unique to 2005 commissioners, some rodeo enthusiasts where deeply troubled by the June 8 commission decision, which would have nullified a public vote that decreed the west side the best location. Those same community members were perplexed by a contingency clause spelled out in that early June meeting. It stated that a west-side location could only be pursued if additional funding for the project was secured. To many, the contingency plan was illogical, especially in light of the architect’s revised report.
Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis, critical of the June 8 vote, said he was pleased by news of the reversal.
“I truly believe it is a better location,” Harden said. “It’s not landlocked and it will make the entire facility more efficient.”
Harden said the west-side special events center will be eligible for a tax exemption under Senate Bill 440, which provides a break on gross-receipts tax for arenas with more than 4,000 seats available.
The senator added that he will continue to search for additional funding for the center.