ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Voluntary connection provision violates loan agreement, state says
The controversial Corrales wastewater system has hit a new snag, with the state Environment Department claiming the ordinance councilors recently approved setting conditions for connecting to the system violates terms of a loan the department advanced to help pay for it.
The department’s field director of operations and infrastructure, Tom Blaine, informed Mayor Phil Gasteyer of the department’s concerns by letter this week, giving the village until Aug. 14 to “remedy the situation.”
Blaine’s letter referred to a $540,000 loan packaged with a $1 million grant Corrales received from the Environment Department in 2012 to complete the wastewater project.
Gasteyer emailed councilors on Wednesday calling them to a work session at 6:30 p.m. on June 12 in Council Chambers to discuss the wastewater plans.
Corrales currently has no sewer system. Residents depend on septic systems, and concern about possible groundwater contamination from those systems in the densely populated area along Corrales Road spurred the wastewater project.
But during more than a decade of discussion and three years of construction, many residents have opposed it, saying a centralized waste-handling system would be too costly and isn’t needed.
The ordinance the council passed May 14, with the mayor casting the tie-breaking vote in favor, made connection to the system voluntary.
“Because it does not require connection within a reasonable amount of time, this ordinance constitutes a default of a condition of the loan,” Blaine said in his letter.
The financial viability of the system is a major concern, he said.
Blaine questioned whether making connection voluntary would enable the village to operate the system and repay the loan. An initial projection by the village attorney showed the system would run at an annual deficit of $50,000.
“I really don’t know what to do,” Councilor Ennio Garcia-Miera said. “If we’re forced to make it mandatory that’s going to raise other objections.”