Commission candidates talk water, retail

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

In a light-hearted dig, Rosalie Riley gave fellow city commissioner candidate Robert Sandoval a Target T-shirt during Thursday’s candidate forum at the Clovis Civic Center.
“My biggest mandate from my constituents has been: See if you can get a Target store,” Sandoval said.

On a more serious note, City Commission candidates in the March 4 municipal election discussed water conservation and retail development during a forum sponsored by the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce and the Clovis Industrial Development Corp.

District 4 candidate David Briseno and District 3 candidate Fidel Madrid were not present due to work-related reasons.

District 1
• Incumbent Randy Crowder said farmers are doing what they can to conserve water and the city is limited in what it can do to address the water used by farmers. He said he is not convinced that buying water rights from farmers is the best solution for the city water issues. He said according to the New Mexico American Water, water levels in some wells connected to the Ogallala Aquifer have gone down 10.2 feet in 3 years.

Crowder, a builder/developer, said the city can educate small businesses on how to do business with the government.

“The biggest problem is most businesses do not understand what’s required to do business with the federal government,” he said. “In fact, most businesses are not even aware of how to do business with the state or the city of Clovis.”

• Rosalie Riley said the city should purchase as many water rights from farmers as it can since agricultural use accounts for about 96 percent of water used in the area.
“There’s not much water conservation we can do to keep up with that kind of water use,” she said.

Riley, a small business owner, said increasing the number of qualified workers would bring in more businesses. She said she would like to see the unoccupied buildings in the downtown areas turned into office spaces and use them to attract businesses such as call centers and insurance underwriters to Clovis.

District 2
• Ben McDaniel said while most of the water usage occurs outside of the city, the city can still do things to conserve water such as the proposed effluent pipeline project, which would use water from the city’s wastewater treatment plant to irrigate city properties and could be used for dust control. He said residents can also follow water conservation practices in their homes.

McDaniel, who owns a local furniture store, said the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce was put in place for the purpose of economic development. But he said for retail development there aren’t many government incentives that would encourage retail growth. He said the city will have to look at a broader solution such as trying to increase the population to address the issue.

• Incumbent Fred Van Soelen said he supports the Ute Water Project, which proposes to bring water from Ute Lake in Quay County to eight eastern New Mexico entities.

He said he also supports finding technologies that enable the use of brackish water in the Santa Rosa Aquifer and the city’s proposed effluent pipeline project.

He said farmers are doing what they can do to conserve water.

“It costs them money to irrigate,” he said. “They are the best water conservers I know.”
He said expanding the city’s industrial base would result in more retail stores locating in Clovis.

“Retail follows industry,” he said.

District 3
• Robert Sandoval, the incumbent, said 96 percent of the water in the area is used by farmers. He said the city should encourage farmers to produce crops that aren’t as water intensive.

“We have to focus on the fact that agriculture is using a lot of our water,” he said. “Until we address this issue, it’s not going to go away.”

Sandoval, a retired postal employee, said the best way he can bring in more retail businesses is by supporting the Chamber of Commerce and the CIDC.

District 4
• Chris Bryant said conserving water is a community effort and the city should encourage its residents to implement water conservation practices such as xeriscaping and using water-saving devices such as low-flow toilets.

“We need to look at water (conservation) from the city’s side,” he said.

Bryant, a local restaurant owner, said the best he can do to increase retail growth in the city is to support the Chamber of Commerce.