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State pumping money into Albuquerque projects

The Legislature’s capital outlay bill provides $7.5 million to help mitigate traffic around Balloon Fiesta Park, one of several Albuquerque projects to receive funding. (Jim Thompson/Journal file)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico’s budgetary abundance has turned out to be a boon for the state’s largest city.

The Legislature – awash in new money this year due to an oil boom – approved $63.7 million in local government division funding for Albuquerque projects just prior to adjourning last week. That’s up from $39 million last year.

While some of the money fans out to the likes of Little League fields and museums, the bulk – about $54 million – goes to city government facilities, infrastructure and equipment.

That includes $16.8 million to upgrade the first responders’ communication network; $7.5 million for traffic mitigation efforts around Balloon Fiesta Park, including a new special-use ramp onto Interstate 25; and $7.5 million for the Rail Yards redevelopment.

Mayor Tim Keller had previously complained that New Mexico’s largest city did not historically receive a commensurate share of state capital outlay dollars. But he credited lawmakers and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for changing course this year.

“We feel this was a major reset when it comes to how the state prioritizes all areas – and, in this case, a city that is in need and asking for help,” Keller said. “This year, we got it. It’s awesome.”

The bill – which still requires the governor’s signature – also includes about $5 million for Albuquerque Fire Rescue vehicles, protective gear and station upgrades. It allocates about $4 million for the city police, including equipment that can dramatically speed up DNA testing and technology that can help connect bullet casings to other crimes.

But the legislation put relatively little into one of Keller’s highest priorities: construction of a centralized, 24/7 homeless shelter. That project, pegged at $28 million, received $985,000 – about half of what the Legislature designated for a West Side Albuquerque sports complex ($1.8 million).

Keller said the city needs $14 million to complete at least the shelter’s first phase and he hopes to get it through a separate channel: the city’s November general obligation bond election.

It’s up to City Council whether to include that on the $127 million list of capital projects it puts out to voters.

The council had included just $3 million for the shelter on its initial project list, though a substitute version introduced by City Council budget chair Trudy Jones earlier this week raised it to $14 million. The council will vote on a final version next month.

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