Official: Housing, health care among top growth priorities

Argen Duncan

Housing, quality of life and health care are top priorities for regional growth management, the regional growth planner has said.

At the Local Growth Management Committee meeting Wednesday in Portales, Rick Draker of RM Draker and Associates gave a close-out report on the first year of regional growth planning work.

Draker said the time the regional planning office received during Right Start presentations for new Cannon Air Force Base personnel had increased as per personnel requests. Base Deputy Civil Engineer Michael Poston said the presentations benefited personnel and should continue.

Draker said attendees liked the driving distances the presentations provided for nearby attractions.

“Health care was talked about a little bit, but housing was always the big issue,” he said.

In the next few years, he said, 350 to 400 units for purchase would be built and would keep up with demand in that area. However, the need for rentals is dire, Draker said.

Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield said she was worried because without housing, the base wouldn’t be on the fast track for growth. Her real estate agency has no rentals available, she said.

Curry County Commissioner Wendell Bostwick said he didn’t understand why developers didn’t go to rural communities because financial help and infrastructure were available.

For health care, Draker said the Portales and Clovis area is losing $16 million in health care funds because people go elsewhere. A significant portion were leaving for invasive heart surgery, he said.

Local health care organizations are mulling sharing specialists, Draker said. Also, he said the area needs more mental health care.

“Funding is drying up,” Draker said. “It doesn’t matter where you look.”

He suggested checking private sources instead of relying on public money for more growth planning.

Draker said he felt a lot was accomplished in the past year.

In another matter, the committee appointed City of Portales Capital Projects Manager Susan Baysinger, Curry County Manager Lance Pyle and City of Clovis Legislative and Community Development Director Claire Burroughes to finish the Office of Economic Adjustment grant application in the next two weeks. They are also to make a recommendation on how to handle regional growth management activities during the expected three-month funding lapse between the first and second grants.

OEA project manager Amanda Leiker-Fagan suggested making development of a regional growth management implementation strategy a top priority. Curry County Commissioner Caleb Chandler said guidelines for wind energy development to avoid interference with the base needed to be addressed.

Portales Mayor Sharon King said she thought the most important thing was learning to carry on the regional growth management activities after the planner was gone. She didn’t think the area would receive another grant after next year.