Things are moving along on several fronts in Edgewood as Mayor John Bassett completes his first year in office.
Bassett visited with The Independent about his first year last week.
Projects underway include an expansion and new space for the library and town offices; a move for the police department; approval of a long-sought infill annexation; and replacement or upgrade of the sewer system. The new mayor was also faced with major staffing changes as he took office, hiring several key positions including a police chief, town clerk, and planning and zoning administrator, among others.
The library will be moved into its new space at Edgewood Elementary School by about the middle of June, Bassett said. The municipal offices will move to the new location also.
The town is also looking into leasing a portable classroom there for a book barn for the Friends of our Library, or FOOLS, a group which raises funds.
Meanwhile, the police department will move into the old fire station next door to the community center. “They’re beginning to come out at the seams in that little building,” Bassett said.
Santa Fe County owns the old fire station and is willing to give it to the town, Bassett said. The station will more than triple the space for the police department and allow for other improvements like a sally port so that prisoners can be dropped off, and a holding cell that will allow office staff and police to see any prisoners there.
In addition, the location “in the center of town next to the interstate puts them in their highest call [volume] quadrant,” Bassett said.
The town’s animal control department will stay where it is, and the municipal court will move into the space currently housing police, the mayor said. “For them that should be a good size. … As we’re shuffling stuff around, the municipal judge can go into that one pretty easy.”
Bassett said the town is working with the state to see if it can “repurpose” a loan of about a million dollars “for building public works,” adding, “If we can get that repurposed it will finance remodeling of the fire station and current police building and police offices.”
The projects will be done sequentially, he said, with the library first, then the police, then municipal court. Moving the municipal offices will come last.
Bassett said “so far everything looks good,” but it will be some time this summer until the town knows whether the money can be used for a different purpose.
In early March, a judge ruled in favor of Edgewood’s infill annexation, a process that took two attempts by the town over several years to accomplish. Next steps will include figuring out zoning and how to provide services for the 1,800 acres added into the town’s area.
The town will also be contacting the state department of Taxation and Revenue, to make sure that it gets any new tax revenue now due it as a result of the infill.
“We’ve got it now, so now we have to own it and provide the services we said we could,” Bassett said. “Prominently that’s roads, police and emergency services. We’re trying to work to get our financial house in order.”
The annexation added about 8 miles of roads to Edgewood’s inventory. “A lot of it is north of Church, east of Quail—not the best condition roads. They’re gonna need work. The [police] chief tells me … those areas we’re going to be picking up have a high call rate.”
Bassett is looking ahead to adding “ideally another police officer or two” and extra equipment and personnel for the road department.
Asked what all of that would cost, Bassett said the new expenses would be added incrementally as the budget allows.
Meanwhile, another big expense for the town, its sewer, needs to be replaced according to an engineering study.
The state’s Environment Department approved that engineering report, “but as far as getting financing as outlined in that [report], they wouldn’t go with that,” Bassett said. The state suggested the town do another review to see if there is a cheaper way to make it work.
One possibility is downgrading the water quality produced by the sewer plant, the mayor said. “The key thing they’re looking at was right now that plant the way it’s set up is to make Class 1A water, the cleanest water,” Bassett said. If the plant produced Class 2 water it could make the membranes in the system last longer; currently those membranes clog with the hard water in the area.
Since the town mainly uses the sewer’s effluent to spray roads, Class 2 water can do the job, Bassett said. The engineering report has “a great plan,” Bassett said. “If we ever win the lottery maybe we’ll try that.”
Another issue for the wastewater system is that it has only commercial customers, including big producers of “high strength commercial waste,” like Walmart and Smith’s. The state would like to see more residential hookups, Bassett said.
If the line were expanded within a few hundred feet of a residence, a town ordinance says that residence would need to link into the system, he said, adding that other government entities have put into place cost share programs, grace period for payment and other methods of encouraging compliance.
Budget preparation season is coming up for the town, and the mayor said budget priorities continue to be the police department, roads and the sewer as the town’s primary expenses.
Meanwhile, Edgewood is waiting for the dust to settle on the legislative session which just ended to see what impact there will be on the town.
Asked at one year in whether he would run for mayor again, Bassett answered, “I’d have to think on that,” citing the time investment as substantial and more than he expected.
The best part of the job is “probably just being able to help somebody when you can,” he said.