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RR passes capital wish list

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Money to replace Rio Rancho’s aging waterlines came in at the top of the wish list city councilors will send to Santa Fe seeking a slice of the appropriation pie.

The Legislative Capital Outlay resolution councilors approved this week included 10 items, totaling roughly $37 million, that will be sent to the state.

During the legislative session that begins in January, lawmakers who represent Rio Rancho will vie for appropriations from the estimated $186.2 million in severance tax bond funding expected to be available for projects throughout the state, according to a council briefing memo.

The No. 1 request is $1.5 million to replace the 15- to 25-year-old polypropylene service line pipes that break with increasing frequency. Rio Rancho lost an estimated 5 million gallons of water in 2011 due to water main breaks and leaks.

Higher water rates approved this year are estimated to yield $1 million annually to replace water lines, but without extra funds it would take more than 10 years to make all the needed replacements, Councilor Chuck Wilkins told his council colleagues.

Councilors ranked their priorities from a list of capital improvement items drafted by a committee of department heads.

Street pavement preservation and new vehicles for the police and fire departments were next on the priority list.

Mayor Tom Swisstack, a former state representative, reminded councilors that legislators will have many competing demands for funds.

Wilkins proposed two amendments that passed on a 5-0 vote. Councilor Patty Thomas was absent from the meeting.

One amendment replaced a $3.2 million request for the city’s pilot project to store treated wastewater in the underground aquifer with a $928,000 request to replace heavy equipment used to maintain city roads.

The other amendment substituted a request for $480,000 to renovate Fire Station 1 on Southern Blvd. with a request for $8.4 million to extend Broadmoor to Paseo del Volcan.

Councilors have said the Broadmoor extension could provide an extra route to the city center and the University of New Mexico’s Sandoval County Regional Medical Center hospital. Wilkins and Swisstack suggested seeking UNM’s help to get support in Santa Fe.

Councilors Tim Crum and Mark Scott suggested inviting legislators who represent the city to a council workshop to help them understand Rio Rancho’s needs.

In other matters, councilors unanimously approved:

  • A budget change to show the $520,000 in state money the city has received for improvements to Fire Station 1 on Southern.
  • A new policy for city workers designed to create awareness about domestic violence and provide assistance to city employees who experience it.
  • A disaster resolution that makes the city eligible for state funds to help cover storm damage costs.
  • An $885,000 contract with Wilson & Company for a preliminary design for improvements on Southern from N.M. 528 to Rainbow.