RIO RANCHO – The City of Rio Rancho has received notification that, in the coming months, it will receive almost $2.5 million owed to it by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and federal government.
This payment stems from a 2007 reimbursable grant agreement with the USACE for the design and construction of an arsenic treatment facility needed to meet federal mandates. Per this agreement, approximately $6.5 million was owed to the city, based on available funding.
“Rio Rancho’s water has always been very good – the arsenic content is something that’s been from volcanic activity,” Mayor Gregg Hull said, knowing the proximity of several extinct volcanoes. “Cleaning it out was an EPA mandate; we cleaned it out.”
He said getting the money had been one of his priorities since he took office.
“I am very happy that, after many years of fighting for this money, we will now cross the finish line once this payment is received,” Hull said.
The city received $350,000 in 2009, $2.135 million in 2016, $500,000 in 2017 and a little more than $1 million in 2018 for partial reimbursements.
“Rio Rancho would not have received the total amount owed without the focused efforts of the city’s governing body members, city staff and city lobbyist,” Hull said. “I also want to acknowledge and thank our Congressional members and their staff, as well as USACE staff for their support.”
Hull said he was initially told pursuing remuneration for an unfunded mandate “was a fool’s errand,” and that he was throwing good money after bad.
He said he was “just green enough” as he took office in 2014, hired a federal lobbyist “to keep an eye on all the legislation” for $210,000 and made two trips to the nation’s capital to get the ball rolling.
“In the first year, there was a lot of legwork, (requiring) changing the law that would allow us to get reimbursed – literally an act of Congress,” Hull explained. “It’s been slow progress, (but) in four years we’ve been able to recoup the $6.5 million.
“It’s a big win for the city and it puts this money back in place into the city coffers, where it belongs,” he said.
He answered a question he’s sure will come up: Why not use this money for police officers’ salaries?
“This is utility money and can only be used in the utility fund,” he said. “It’s been a bad debt, sitting on the city books.”
U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, along with U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján and Gov.-Elect Michelle Lujan Grisham, announced last week that the Corps of Engineers had allocated about $10.5 million for water resources projects across New Mexico, including the money for Rio Rancho.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, Udall worked to secure the highest level of funding ever for the Army Corps of Engineers.
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