Residents seek alternatives to ‘pits or holes’ in developed areas

Clovis city commissioners view ideas for storm-water management during a presentation Thursday at the North Annex of the Clovis-Carver Public Library. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer

Clovis City Commissioner Cathy Haynes says storm-water retention ponds in the city are unhealthy, unsightly and dangerous. Several area residents shared her views on Thursday night during a Commission work session that followed its regular meeting.

While the issue of how to manage storm water was not resolved during three hours of public comment, Haynes said a key objective was met — public awareness has been raised.

“I hope we (the Commission) will do some landscaping and housekeeping,” Haynes said, “and continue to educate ourselves.”

A city ordinance requires storm-water runoff be maintained by implementing one of five preferred methods, the most popular being retention ponds.

City leaders contend other options are more expensive, and that the retention ponds are a good choice to prevent flooding in developed areas.

The five methods for controlling storm water are:
• Infiltration of runoff on site
• Utilizing existing playas (shallow lakes)
• Flow continuation by use of open vegetation swales and natural depressions
• Storm-water retention structures
• Storm-water detention structures, which are underground, utilizing vaults or tanks.

Armand Smith, who owns the land Chili’s restaurant is built on, said he was originally told by city public works officials that an on-site retention pond was necessary before he could obtain a building permit. “I was led to believe there were no other options,” Smith said.

Harry Wang, Clovis’ public works director, denied his department misled Smith. Wang said public works never chooses the method of storm-water management.

Commissioner Randall Crowder blamed the Chili’s incident on “misinterpretation of the ordinance.”

Gayla Brumfield, owner of Colonial Real Estate, said she canceled a business trip to Santa Fe to attend Thursday’s study session.

“My job is selling Clovis,” Brumfield said, “and I can do that well because I love Clovis, but we aren’t perfect.” She referred to the retention ponds located around the city as “pits or holes.” Brumfield said she finds the ponds offensive and as a taxpayer is bothered the city-owned playas are not being utilized.

Clovis resident Gloria Wicker said she too is worried about the condition of the city due to the growing number of “ugly ponds.” Wicker said the city’s slogan will become “City of Clovis — It’s the Pits” if other options for storm-water management are not considered.

Wicker’s comments were met with laughter and applause.

Commissioner Fred Van Soelen said he believes developers should be required to follow the order of preference outlined in the city ordinance, which names retention ponds as one of the last choices.

Mayor David Lansford said another meeting on the subject could be held at a later date.

During the Commission’s regular meeting on Thursday:
Chase Gentry, executive director of the Clovis Industrial Development Corp., presented an Economic Diversification Package to the commissioners, which he plans to take before the New Mexico Legislature.

Gentry said the package identifies five key priorities that, if enacted, will provide Clovis with the tools needed to recruit new industry and diversify jobs.

The five priorities are:
• Capital outlay for economic development;
• Water supply projects;
• State highway infrastructure;
• Special redevelopment incentives;
• Special redevelopment tax.