City manager says streets, growth top priority

City Manager Joe Thomas served 21 years on the Clovis Police force. (Staff photo: Tony Bullocks)

By Jean Verlich: CNJ News editor

Clovis City Manager Joe Thomas, 55, celebrated his 34th anniversary with the city of Clovis on Aug. 7. In 1972, the Tucumcari native joined the Clovis Police Department as an officer, and served on the force for 21 years. He has also served as public works director. He became city manager in December 2004.

Q: With the new mission for Cannon Air Force Base, how will Clovis handle the expected growth?

A: We have talked to the Air Force and the Department of Defense. It appears that there is going to be slow, sustained growth rather than just overnight doubling the size of the base, which is good. It allows us to be able to respond and provide the infrastructure needed to deal with the additional increase in size.

Our concern when we first heard about the new mission was whether we were going to have time to do a lot of the things that we feel need to be done beforehand. It appears that we are. We have some major projects under way now and others under consideration.

Q: What are some of the projects?

A: We’ve made some progress over the past few years as far as our street conditions and roads. You have the passage of the 1/4 percent gross receipts tax a couple years ago that has given us the mechanism to develop a long-range plan to be able to deal with some of our street and road issues.

In our wastewater division, we’ve got an addition of storage capacity at the wastewater treatment plant in part due to the Southwest Cheese plant.

We have two significant drainage projects nearing completion. One is what we refer to as the Peacock drainage facility, which is providing underground drainage from the northeast part of town through Town Talk trailer park and ultimately into the major channel all of the rest of the drainage funnels into.

The other significant drainage project is the one at 21st and Prince extending north. The actual underground skeletal structure is in place. As soon as it is complete, the state Department of Transportation is going to resurface from 21st to Llano Estacado. Certainly that was something that was needed.

It appears that the work should be completed in about the same time frame by October.

Q: What projects are being planned?

A:The city overall and the commission are considering the legislative priorities for the upcoming year. In the way of infrastructure, there has been some discussion of upgrading Martin Luther King Boulevard north of the hospital to Llano Estacado and Norris Street from Llano Estacado to Wilhite Road. Those are both arterial streets and major north-south thoroughfares. There is consideration of upgrading them and widening them to four lanes and adding curbs and gutters. That’s not saying it will happen, but there’s consideration. It would help to carry a lot more traffic.

We had some discussion of possible recreation areas as well. We’re trying to work with the soccer programs to identify and locate new soccer fields. The Wellness Center project has been something that’s been ongoing for the last couple years. We have some money in place for that and continue to try to acquire additional funding to make that a reality.

Q:There’s been a persistent rumor that Starbucks is coming to Clovis, but the company denied plans when contacted by the Clovis News Journal.

A: Some of the city administration has been in discussion with Starbucks. Their overall corporate plan is to have 10,000 people in population to support one Starbucks. In that vein, we should have three, but I’m sure they’re looking at adult population, which would mean one or maybe two in the Clovis area. I’ve not talked to them directly and there has not been any indication of any specific locations. It is safe to say that there is some merit to the fact that they may be coming in the not-too-distant future.

Q: How does the city work to attract business?

A: We work closely with the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce and Clovis Industrial Development Corp. I am an ex-officio member of both their boards. Several years ago we passed the industrial development tax, which the city oversees and is the primary source of funding for Clovis Industrial Development Corp.
Sometimes you get lucky, like with the Southwest Cheese plant.

Q: What’s a typical day for you as city manager?

A:There is no typical day. I have oversight responsibility for all city departments: police, fire, emergency, the library, Clovis Area Transportation System, safety, parks and public works. I’m fortunate in that I have strong department heads who know their specific areas. I’m dependent on their knowledge and expertise.

But I’m at the top of the chain. If there are complaints that come in and people don’t get satisfaction, eventually they make their way to me. I’m often the peacemaker for the city with citizens.

Q: What has been your best day?

A: Recently, it would be the day we got the announcement of the new mission for Cannon. Although I was totally confident that we had a good plan in place should they not go forward with the base, it was good to get the dark cloud on the community out from hanging over us.

Q:What was your worst day?

A: Probably the day of the BRAC announcement (Cannon was targeted for closure). It was a Friday and a long day.