Commission approves loan for wastewater pretreatment plant

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

The city commission approved a $728,661 loan Thursday as an advance on cash Southwest Cheese is expecting from the state to complete a wastewater pretreatment facility.

Clovis Industrial Development Corp. Executive Director Chase Gentry told commissioners the plant was previously granted more than $800,000 through state appropriations.

But in October, when the governor froze capital outlay money, they hadn’t used the money yet — meaning the funding was lost.

Since then, Gov. Bill Richardson reauthorized the money, but it will be six months or more before the state is able to sell bonds and transfer the cash.

Southwest Cheese is trying to expedite completion of its project, Gentry said.

When the money from the state comes through, the city will be reimbursed, he said.

The money is needed to buy a tract of land. It would be paid out of the Economic Development Tax Fund, Gentry said.

The fund has a balance of between $2.2 and $3.1 million in cash, he said.

“We feel like the fund could sustain that investment if we had to,” he said, meaning if the state money doesn’t materialize.

Gentry said city support of the pretreatment facility for the plant has been part of the deal since the beginning.

City Manager Joe Thomas told commissioners if they entered into the agreement the way it was proposed and the state did not reimburse Southwest Cheese, “it would be taken permanently from the (Economic Development Tax Fund) budget.”

There is little risk in the loan, Mayor Gayla Brumfield said following the meeting.

“(The state money falling through) won’t happen because they have said that they would give the money,” she said,

“The city will not lose anything on it… that’s what the fund was for. That’s why the fund was established in the first place,” she said.

Brumfield said the EDT fund is separate from the general fund and city budget and was designed for precisely this type function.

In other business the commission:

• Approved a request from Clovis Industrial Development Corp. Executive Director Chase Gentry to use $250,000 from the Economic Development Tax Fund to repair and replace the roof of the Business Development Center.

• Approved a street closure on Main Street between Seventh and Eighth Streets from 11:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m., April 15 for a Taxed Enough Already rally.

• Approved a request from Curry County Road Superintendent Chris Pacheco for $12,500 toward a median project between Clovis and Cannon Air Force Base. Pacheco said the county has applied for a grant to improve the medians, concrete with decorative designs, and the grant would require $25,000 from the community, which the city and county would share.

• Clovis police Lt. Doug Ford was recognized as the city’s distinguished supervisor of the quarter. Chief Steve Sanders said his service as commander of the Special Operations Unit and contributions he has made have made him a stand-out supervisor.

• Vicki Babilonia, a records clerk at the Clovis Police Department, was recognized as the Distinguished Line Employee of the Quarter. Sanders said Babilonia has been responsible for scanning old department records for digital archives and always has a smile on her face.