By Kevin Wilson
CNJ staff writer
The Clovis City Commission held a study session Monday, where Mayor David Lansford implored commissioners to take a few weeks and prioritize what they think the city’s biggest needs are for the next five years.
The first one seems to have been filled out for them.
Support for the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System, along with it support for an interim water delivery project and the effluent reuse pipeline, was outlined by Lansford as the top goal for the city.
“If you attended the interim (state water and natural resources) committee meeting that was held last week at the civic center … I think (Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System Project Manager) Paul van Gulick stated it might be 20 years before the Ute pipeline project is complete,” Lansford said. “I don’t believe the commission can wait 20 years to have a reliable water supply.”
It was suggested that at a later commission meeting — most likely Aug. 15 or Sept. 5 — the commission create a resolution to name their priorities and assign either high, medium or low priority instead of a numerical ranking. The resolution, Lansford also suggested, could revisit the resolution every year both as a refresher and to see if a new priority presents itself.
Lansford went around the commission dais for their priorities. Numerous ideas were floated, but there was no dissent on the top issue.
“Without the water,” Commissioner Chris Bryant said, “none of these things mean anything to us.”
The study session, and the eight-minute special commission meeting preceding it, took up about 80 minutes with mostly city department heads among the dozen in attendance.
Here are some of the thoughts shared at the study session by commissioners and city staff:
• Commissioner Randy Crowder said the city might want to look at Curry County’s approach regarding employee pay raises. The county approved pay increases during a special meeting Friday on an inversely graduated system — meaning lower-waged employees got the highest percentage increases, and the highest-waged employees got the lowest percentage increases.
• Commissioner Sandra Taylor-Sawyer felt the city needed to look at the effluent reuse pipeline, which would treat wastewater to a level below drinking standards but suitable for watering fields and dust control at the landfill. Taylor-Sawyer felt the city needed to look at as many ways to use the wastewater as possible.
Also, Taylor-Sawyer said a look was needed at traffic signage south of 14th Street, because many people are speeding through the areas and, “That’s just an accident waiting to happen.”
• Police Chief Steve Sanders said an infrastructure need is a larger evidence room, and he said staffing is always an issue. He noted that staff levels have remained the same at the department over 10 years while calls have risen 15 percent.
“Sooner or later, you have to start hiring additional officers,” Sanders said, “or we’re going to have to look at what it is we’re responding to.”
Sanders said 62 is considered fully staffed, and he only has two vacancies, but the number doesn’t take into account nine positions filled by people in training.
• Clovis Fire Chief Ray Westerman said with growth in the in the northeastern and north central areas, an additional fire substation northeast of the Llano Estacado Boulevard-Norris Street roundabout is something to consider over the next few years.
• Airport Director Gene Bieker said, “One of the top priorities is going eastbound (from Clovis Municipal Airport to Dallas); it’s not as easy as it sounds.”
Bieker said regional jet service isn’t the only possibility, and said the city should look into smaller planes and possible flights to Love Field Airport instead of settling only for Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
• Clovis Area Transit System Director Mary Lou Kemp said the city should revisit the idea of a fixed route system for the public buses. The system is currently a service requiring at least 24 hours notice.
• City Manager Joe Thomas said it wasn’t more important than a fire substation or a police evidence room, but he would feel remiss if he didn’t at least mention a new city hall building. The 60-year-old building, Thomas said, is quite crowded and the flooding that occurred last week showed structural issues that could continue to plague the city.
Bryant asked Sanders if the current city hall building, across the street from the police department, could serve as an evidence storage facility should a new city hall be located. Sanders said he would be pleased with that scenario if it happened.