Land OK’d for plant

By Jean Verlich: CNJ news editor

A heated debate between economic growth and water usage at Thursday’s Clovis City Commission meeting ended decisively. Jobs won.

Commissioners OK’d the contribution of up to 25 acres of land at the Clovis Industrial Park for American Renewable Fuels to construct an $80 million biodiesel plant. The motion passed by a vote of seven to one. Commissioner and Mayor Pro Tem Randal Crowder opposed the measure because of his concern for water usage.

In an impassioned plea for approval, Gene Hendrick, business recruiter for the Clovis Industrial Development Corp., took commissioners through a complicated mathematical process that showed the plant wouldn’t use much more water annually than if the land were farmed.

CIDC Executive Director Chase Gentry said after the meeting company officials estimated the most water that would be used by the plant would be about 68,000 gallons per day.

“They are going to give us 41 jobs,” Hendrick said.

Hendrick listed wage ranges for those jobs, and said using the low range for them he estimated an annual payroll of more than $2 million.

Crowder said he had a “problem” with approving the land contribution for the project because “I have to tell my neighbor” when it is OK to water the lawn, referring to the city’s water conservation plan.

After Hendrick’s analysis, Commissioner Robert Sandoval said, “We are going to use as much water (as farming the land) and (get) good jobs.”

Hendrick added, “These are not just jobs; these are good jobs.”

Following the meeting, Clovis Fire Chief Ray Westerman presented the conclusion of his plan for raising the pay and benefits scale for members of the fire department. Westerman said his $275,000 plan would not require additional funding but would use monies allocated for unfilled positions.

He said “the benefits far outweigh the cost,” including “a tremendous increase in morale,” saving on training cost and long-term
employee commitment.

Under the plan, a basic firefighter would be paid the same $8.29 minimum hourly pay as currently but there would be more job levels with increasing pay ranges. The scale would pay personnel for earning intermediate and paramedic certification.

There would be 11 job levels and the chief. Under the proposed plan, the chief’s salary could jump more than $11 an hour.

Commissioners will consider the plan at the Sept. 6 meeting.

Meetings watch
In other business at Thursday’s meeting, Clovis City Commissioners:

Approved the city’s master plan. The city’s attorney, David Richards, explained that the plan is required by statute, and the current one was adopted in 1989. He said “it’s a constantly changing
document” when areas are rezoned, for example.

Tabled approval on the joint plan between the city and county to correct some language.

Approved the agreement with the New Mexico Department of Transportation for repaving Sycamore Street between Mabry Drive and 14th Street. The city will pay $158,000 of the project’s $220,000 cost with the state paying the remainder.

Approved the Local Infrastructure and Capital Improvements Plan for 2009-2013. Commissioner Fred Van Soelen asked the city’s grant coordinator, Sandy Chancey, what the purpose of the plan is and if it differed from last year’s. Chancey said it’s a “tool legislators can use to see what we have planned for and where we rank in priority.” She said it was similar to last year’s plan.

Condemned four manufactured homes and authorized acquisition of costs for their demolition and removal.

Approved an addendum to the project participation agreement between ARES Corp. and the city to install a 12-inch loop water line to serve the Clovis Industrial Park. The biodiesel company has agreed to pay the city $78,700 toward installation of the water line and fire hydrant.