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Saturday, March 15, 2003

Mayor Will Fight Water Bill OK'd by Senate

By Kate Nash
Journal Capitol Bureau
    SANTA FE Albuquerque leaders will fight a bill approved by the Senate on Friday that would lessen the city's say over its water utility, Mayor Martin Chávez said.
    The Senate on a 23-13 vote passed a measure that would set up a joint water authority of the city and Bernalillo County to run the water and wastewater system (SB 887 committee substitute.) The authority would also set water rates.
    "We're going to fight. I'm very opposed to this," Chávez said.
    Six members of the nine-member Albuquerque City Council issued a statement Thursday opposing the measure.
    The measure, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Manny Aragon, now goes to the House for consideration.
    Aragon, a Democrat who represents Bernalillo County's South Valley, and county officials have said city leaders don't show up for meetings to the current joint water board something Chávez doesn't deny. They also say the county should have a larger say in water matters because county residents pay into the city's water system.
    But the measure goes too far, the mayor said.
    "I just think this isn't the right solution. It's using a chain saw to fix something that can be done with a scalpel," he said.
    If approved by the House and Gov. Bill Richardson, the city would get one less representative on the joint authority than it has on a current joint water board.
    The current Albuquerque Metropolitan Water and Wastewater Board has four city councilors and three county commissioners plus a representative from the Village of Los Ranchos. The new one would have two city councilors plus the mayor and three county commissioners.
    Senators who debated the measure in committee Thursday and on the floor Friday charged the measure was heard too quickly and made a motion to send the bill back to committee, which failed.
    The measure replaces SB 793, under which the county would have taken over the water utility outright.
    Meanwhile, the councilors against the water bill also came out against another measure by Aragon, SB 241 committee substitute.
    That measure, applying to Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces, would place the ability to make zoning decisions in the hands of Bernalillo, Santa Fe and Doña Ana counties for the five-mile extraterritorial zones around the cities.
    The three cities would lose their power to annex land, leaving it subject to approval of the counties.
    Singing the letter opposing the joint water authority legislation were Albuquerque City Councilors Michael Cadigan, Miguel Gómez, Eric Griego, Greg Payne, Brad Winter and Hess Yntema.
    The councilors say they oppose any measure that would dilute the city's "power, revenue or authority."