Officials say options limited for helping builders

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Frankie Lopez of Double I Construction plumbs a post Thursday for a picket fence at a home under construction on Ralph Boone Drive in northeast Clovis near the Cannon Air Force Base 801 housing for personnel.

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Cannon Air Force Base is set to receive another 1,300 personnel over the next five years, and it’s working on privatizing the homes it already owns.

Add an expansion at the Southwest Cheese plant, and new jobs expected from the proposed Tres Amigas electricity project and complementary power plants.

It all makes for a lot of people coming to live in Clovis and Portales. And, a lot of incentive for municipalities to help builders along.

Options are limited, Clovis City Manager Joe Thomas said, because of the state’s anti-donation clause, and it’s tough to help until you know exactly how much help is needed.

Right now, Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield said she is working on letters of support for a developer so it can acquire the capital needed to build a 200-unit rental complex on the northeast side of Clovis.

“Five years ago, a 200-unit could come in, (the company could) get their financing together,” Brumfield said. “We aren’t in those days anymore.”

Now, Brumfield said, lenders need a push. She’s hoping a letter from the city and from Gov. Bill Richardson can provide that push.

“Here’s a lender, they’re looking at the whole country,” Brumfield said. “They ask, ‘Why would Clovis, New Mexico, need a project, when nationally, this isn’t happening?’ They want to know what makes us different. It would say that’s what we need, this is what Cannon Air Force Base has told us. They’ll know it’s not some fly-by-night unit.”

Brumfield said she would like to be able to have incentives for homebuilders in the same way that cities give tax breaks for incoming businesses. But she and Thomas know it’s comparing apples and oranges.

“This is what we do for economic development, but that has to provide a certain amount of jobs,” Thomas said, noting the city commission would have to approve any permit or tax waivers. “There are some things we can’t do because of the anti-donation (clause) in the state.”

The clause reads, “Neither the state nor any county, school district or municipality … shall directly or indirectly lend or pledge its credit or make any donation to or in aid of any person, association or public or private corporation.”

It’s tough to tell what things can be waived, Thomas said, because every case is different.

“It’s safe to say (the city has) at least $1,500 to $2,500 per home in permit fees,” Thomas said, “but to narrow it down much more, you’d be hard-pressed to do it.”