Edgewood’s town council hashed over plans to build a new sewer system, as the state put the town on notice that some $600,000 is at risk of being frozen or taken back to alleviate budget woes at the Legislature.
The town also named its first police sergeant and discussed its annual audit in its regular meeting last week.
Mayor John Bassett told councilors that contract negotiations are underway after a bid award for the project.
The existing wastewater system is at capacity and has had problems since it was built, Bassett said.
He said unspent capital outlay dollars from 2014 and 2015 have been frozen by the state, including $600,000 allocated in 2015 for a wastewater upgrade. “However you should know that [the state Environment Department] has signaled the Legislature that they want that [money] to be preserved intact,” Bassett said, adding that the money can be used for design “if it’s not messed with.”
Mitigation of problems need to happen “yesterday,” said councilor Rita Loy Simmons.
That thought was echoed by Bassett who said, “Immediately if not sooner.”
Police Chief Ron Crow named one of his officers, Jared Kuchen sergeant, the town’s first.
“The police department has been in need of a sergeant for many years,” Crow said.
He said Kuchen “stood ahead of the others,” excelling in his test for sergeant.
“You have shown your desire to lead and be a supervisory member of this department,” Crow told Kuchen. “Your knowledge of town policy, departmental policy and law are items I see you sharing with other members of this department. … Lead by example, and you’re setting the bar for future sergeants in this department. I do not doubt that you will succeed in your new job assignment.”
The mayor also told the council that Santa Fe County is interested in talking about a town lease of the old fire station, next door to the Edgewood Community Center. If the town and the county can come to an agreement, the building could be available for use by the public like the community center is, he said.
Councilor Sherry Abraham said the Route 66 Arts Alliance has had its eye on that building ever since it was vacated when the fire department moved to the new space on Section 16, on N.M. 344.
“I don’t think they care so much about the bay as much as potential classroom space and room to entertain people and prepare food,” Abraham said, adding that the courtyard was an attractive feature to the group for its summer programs.
“If we can create an art and cultural district right there, there might be some grant money for that,” Abraham said.
The idea will need to be approved by the county’s legal department and county commission, Bassett said.
Plans are proceeding for the town offices and library to move into the Edgewood Elementary School building, said town clerk Juan Torres.
Torres said bond money of $1.2 million might be able to be converted to renovation from construction. The money is a loan which has already been approved. Torres said if the town can’t convert its use to renovation of the space it will likely go unused.
Once details have been settled, Torres anticipates about 90 days of construction before the space is move-in ready.
The council discussed imposition of mill levies it can adopt by resolution, and compared what it does with surrounding communities. Edgewood can enact up to seven mills—and some nearby communities, including Mountainair and Vaughn, have imposed the maximum.
The idea is to reduce the amount the town spends from its general fund for roads. “It’s a large subsidy, $570,000 a year,” Torres said. Last year the town spent about $702,000 on roads altogether.
“If we are going to impose it, we’ll have to do it soon, by the end of March,” Torres said; his recommendation was 3 mills.
“It’s another tax,” Simmons said. “It does help the lenders feel better about lending to us. They want to be sure we’re willing to do something.”
The town got an “unmodified” opinion on its audit, Torres said. That means “they didn’t find any weaknesses with our statements.”
Edgewood did have two findings on its audit resulting from a contract with the Edgewood Chamber of Commerce a few years ago. The contract paid $1,000 a month “for the Chamber to perform certain services,” but Torres said the services described were too vague.
“The list of the services is so vague it’s not possible to determine the value of those services, or if the services were performed,” he said. “Also the town did not solicit other bids or quotes for this contract.”
The contract expired and was not renewed.
Torres said the town is looking at “direct and deliverable” services that the Chamber might provide the town like promotion of trails and open space.