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Rio Rancho water system benefits from legislative money

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Rio Rancho’s aging waterlines, a fire station, senior center and a park suitable for disabled children will benefit from money appropriated in the legislative session.
Councilors Mark Scott and Chuck Wilkins, who have made improving the city’s water line network a priority, were upbeat about the news, venturing that it could make a difference to rate increases.
“I’m absolutely thrilled that we got the money,”said Councilor Mark Scott, “Water lines were number one for me.”
The capital outlay bill signed April 5 by Gov. Susana Martinez provided around $1 million to plan, design and construct water system improvements, including water lines. The city had requested $7.3 million.
Information provided by the city showed Rio Rancho lost an estimated 5 million gallons of water in 2011 due to water main breaks and leaks.
In January, councilors approved an 8.8 percent increase in water rates to generate money to repair the lines. Wilkins said he now plans to ask to reduce the increase that took effect in February from 8.8 percent to 7.8 percent.
Also in the legislation:
* $520,000 to renovation Fire Station 1 on Southern Blvd
* $562,000 for improvements to the Meadowlark Senior Center parking lot.
* $182,986 for A Park Above, all abilities park to be built on city-owned land on Westside Blvd.

Requests for money to build a new police substation in northern Rio Rancho, funds to extend Broadmoor from Norwich Ave. to Paseo del Volcan, improvements for Westside Blvd. and right-of-way acquisition to widen Unser from Cherry to Paseo del Volcan didn’t make the cut.
The park project also received funding from a bill that reauthorized or reallocated money approved in previous legislative sessions.
House Bill 353 pulled $300,000 in not-yet-spent  funds approved in 2009 for a senior center parking lot in Valencia County and reallocated it toward the park project.
Language in the bill said about $197,000 that was reallocated to the Rio Rancho park last year from a hospital project in Truth or Consequences will go back to its previous purpose.
City spokesman Peter Wells said Rio Rancho is in touch with the state Department of Finance to determine if the money can revert to the hospital because the city has already encumbered the funds.
The park project has sparked controversy with proponents saying it is needed it would provide a needed outlet for children with disabilities and attract visitors to Rio Rancho. Others have said the city needs money for critical infrastructure instead. The council even censured Mayor Tom Swisstack for asking legislators to seek funding for the project.
“I’m very disappointed to see that they put that much money into A Park Above,” Wilkins said.
Scott would prefer the project to be funded with private, not public taxpayer, money.

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