City OKs money for CATS building

By Jean Verlich: CNJ News Editor

Clovis City Commissioners awarded a $1.78 million contract at Thursday’s meeting for construction of a new facility for Clovis Area Transit System.

LCI2, Inc., of Clovis was the low bidder.

The project includes an administration building and enclosed compound and vehicle storage to be built on a vacant lot between Sixth and Seventh streets and Axtell and Wallace streets, according to CATS director Mary Lou Kemp. The site was where Eugene Fields School once stood.

City Manager Joe Thomas said the project has been in the works for nearly 10 years. It will be funded by a $1.6 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration, with the city paying the balance.

Now that the contract has been awarded, a construction schedule can be developed, Kemp said.

Kemp said archeological studies have been completed since the federal funding was granted three years ago. She said the studies were needed because the facility is being built on the former school site.

CATS has 14 buses currently and operates from the Parks and Recreation facility at 500 Sycamore St.

Kemp said plans include purchasing four buses as well.

She said CATS is looking into expanding service from demand-response to fixed routes.

“The building … the facility is the first step,” she said, adding that they are “hoping to grow as the city grows.”

In other business, commissioners:

• Approved removing more than $1 million in unpaid medical billing accounts from the fire department’s rolls at the request of Fire Chief Ray Westerman. Westerman explained every effort had been made to collect payment for the bills, generated from 1997 to 2001, and this step would be done in the future as needed on an annual basis. Westerman said the national average collection rate is about 65 percent and the city has about an 80 percent payment ratio.

“Some people in our city just cannot afford to pay,” he said.

Executive administrator Sandy Chancey said the accounts “are still on our books” but will become inactive. She said payment will continue to be accepted.

• Re-elected Skip Overdier and Tom Martin to new terms on the Planning and Zoning Commission and re-appointed Jim Bonner from New Mexico American Water as the utilities representative.

• Heard from Clovis 100th anniversary committee chairman Ray Mondragon about plans to celebrate the city’s centennial next year. Mondragon said the committee is endeavoring to obtain $100,000 in sponsorships.

• The city is studying annexing city-owned property at the landfill into the city limits in the southeast corner, and has placed the topic as a study session item for future consideration.