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Chickens, goats OK’d by Rio Rancho council

Chickens and goats may soon be frolicking in a Rio Rancho yard near you after city councilors on Wednesday approved an ordinance permitting the critters in lots of a certain size.

The ordinance goes into effect 10 days after its adoption.

As approved, the ordinance allows up to seven hens or immature roosters in lots of at least a half-acre in both estate residential and single-family residential zones. The birds’ enclosure must be kept 15 feet from property lines and in a backyard.

The ordinance allows up to three goats of any kind on lots of at least one acre in estate residential zones, Peter Wells, assistant city manager, said. And in single-family residential zones, up to three pygmy or Nigerian dwarf goats that are dehorned and neutered are permitted on lots of any size.

Councilors Marlene Feuer and David Bency voted no Wednesday, just as they did at the first reading of the ordinance.

Bency voiced concern over whether the ordinance restrictions could be enforced, reading aloud several pieces of the ordinance, including a section that requires that birds are fed uncontaminated, age-appropriate food.

“My concern is this: We might be creating a cobweb law here, a law with a lot of rules and it’s not enforceable, it’s not inspectable,” Bency said.

In response, City Manager Keith Riesberg said it is incumbent upon chicken- and goat-owning citizens to ensure that they’re in compliance with the ordinance. He said that code enforcement will get involved when complaints arise or when officers notice problems while conducting other business.

Capital projects

Also at the meeting Wednesday, councilors voted unanimously in favor of the first reading of an ordinance authorizing a loan to fund the replacement of a more than 45-year-old wastewater treatment plant.

The ordinance allows the city to take out a loan with the state Finance Authority of up to $65 million, which will both fund improvements to the city’s water and wastewater utility system and refinance outstanding bonds and loans of the utility system.

The debt will not cause an increase to water or wastewater rates.

A portion of the loan proceeds will fund the design and construction of a new Wastewater Treatment No. 1, located near Intel, the ordinance explains. Funds will also cover the cost to complete Lift Station No. 10, currently under construction near N.M. 528 and Southern. The current estimated cost of both projects is $25.5 million.

In addition to the costs of those projects, the loan will allow for the refinancing of multiple outstanding bonds and loans to achieve interest rate and cash flow savings.

“Sounds like a win-win for the city finances there and a prudent use of taxpayer dollars,” Mayor Gregg Hull said.

Though replacement of the deteriorating wastewater plant was first discussed by the Governing Body in September 2015, two dissenting votes stopped a move to issue a $25 million bond, which under state law must be approved by at least five members of the Governing Body, according to news stories covering that meeting.

After approving the ordinance’s first reading, the council voted unanimously to submit the loan application to the New Mexico Finance Authority. The ordinance will go before the council at its next meeting for a second reading. The Finance Authority will review and consider the city’s application for financing at the end of the month, Wells said.

The council also made progress on a project to reconstruct Southern Boulevard.

They voted unanimously to award a $1.4 million contract to Wilson & Company for the final design of the Southern Boulevard reconstruction.

Utilities director and acting director of the Public Works Department Scott Sensanbaugher said approval means the city is in the design phase on the Southern Boulevard project and that as soon as funds are ready, the city can find a contractor and get started on the project.

“When the federal money for this project becomes available in October of next calendar year, we’re out to bid and we’re rebuilding this road,” Sensanbaugher said.

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