Commission approves job measures

Kevin Wilson

The City Commission dipped into economic development funds to bring more than 60 new jobs into the city, and looked into just how far it could reach to aid developers with reductions in sewer and permit fees.

In a two-hour meeting that included numerous topics, the commission approved measures dealing with 108 jobs — about 45 of them retained, and the rest new — with new industries or expansions of current ones.

With little discussion, other than to tout the job benefits, commissioners unanimously approved agreements to aid Quality Liquid Feed, Cummins Natural Gas Engines and The Pathway House, along with various agreements on the Clovis Industrial Park’s rail spur.

The city approved a $509,000 interest-free loan to help Cummins acquire additional property for its expansion, which would retain 45 jobs and add at least 20 more. It also approved a $100,000 credit on Quality Liquid Feed’s $325,000 land purchase to relocated from Hereford to the industrial park, and aided Pathway House with $50,000 on a $1.2 million expansion to add 26 employees.

The city also took a step in trying to help builders with the area’s housing shortage, with an ordinance aimed at reducing sewer hookup fees and a resolution aimed at reducing permit fees.

Since the city cannot donate money or services to a private individual or industry, City Attorney David Richards said the key was finding discounts for builders on multi-family units, while still recouping enough to cover the city’s expenses so there was no gift.

Under the ordinance and resolution, discounts would begin with 10-unit dwellings, with higher-tiered discounts for more units and the highest discounts at developments of 50 or more units.

Both the ordinance introduction and the resolution passed unanimously, but Commissioner Randy Crowder added a comment to both of his affirmative votes. He felt discounts should be across the board for all multi-family dwellings.

“I think we have an opportunity to help the little guy who can only build duplexes, triplexes,” Crowder said. “I think we have to take advantage of that opportunity.”

The discounts would mean, developer Chad Lydick said, about $60,000 in savings for a proposed 192-unit development. While that’s not much on a project in the $12 million to $20 million range, such a move shows the city is serious about its housing issues and would make such projects more likely to get Federal Housing Authority loans.

Tim Ashley said lower fees across the board would show the strongest message the city was serious about tackling housing problems.

Commissioner Fidel Madrid said the affordable housing act, which Ashley and the High Plains Patriots citizen group worked to defeat in a recent referendum election, would have created a path for such a move. The act would have created an exception to the state’s anti-donation clause for the purpose of affordable housing, in the same manner as an exception exists for economic development.

He asked Ashley why, then, he opposed the affordable housing plan.

“The problem with the plan,” Ashley responded, “was it only allowed for affordable housing projects. If a developer wants to put in a free market rate, they couldn’t take advantage.”

Crowder asked if the ordinance could be edited before approval to increase sewer hookup discounts, and if another resolution could be passed for more permit fee discounts, later on. Richards said that would be possible.

All of the items passed unanimously — the permit and sewer discounts on 8-0 votes, and the economic development agreements on 7-0 votes.

Crowder left the meeting before presentations by Gentry. Contacted after the meeting, Crowder said he had a 7:45 a.m. Friday meeting in Albuquerque, and would have voted with the majority on the economic development if he didn’t have time constraints.

Also at the meeting:

• The commissioners heard a presentation on upcoming redistricting from Michael Sharp of Albuquerque-based Research and Polling, Inc.

The city’s four commission districts must be changed in line with current census data every 10 years. Sharp said the city population of 37,775 means that, “in a perfect world,” each district would include 9,444 residents.

The state allows for differentiation of 5 percent, creating a low of 8,972 and a high of 9,916.

“As long as every district falls within that range, you’re in good shape,” Sharp said.

The process must create whole districts, where one could put a pencil on a district map and not have to lift the pencil to get to every area in the district. The process, Sharp said, must strike a balance between not reducing minority voting impact and not creating a minority-heavy district.

All four districts grew, but Districts 1 and 2 grew more than the city as a whole, and Districts 3 and 4 grew less.

Sharp recommended the commission finish the process by November, before the “86 days before election” deadline. The commission can pass the redistricting by ordinance or resolution, and inform the public through regular or special meetings, town halls or study sessions. The state says it must be done, Sharp said, but gives municipalities free range on the methods used.

• Quarterly awards were presented to retired Animal Shelter Director Louisa Maestas for distinguished supervisor, and to Parks and Recreation administrative secretary Theresa Bullock for distinguished line employee.

• Police Chief Steve Sanders said the department, with two recent retirements and another upcoming, will be short by 10 employees — two with animal control, four in dispatch and four officers.

• Miscellaneous budget transfers totaling $649,200 for wish list items not in the final budget, including $40,000 for a technology specialist at the Clovis Police Department, $15,000 to upgrade city email servers, $160,000 for to provide a dump truck each to the wastewater and street divisions, $30,000 for power supplies for four traffic signals, and $240,000 for a 30 cubic yard front load truck for the solid waste department.

• A Good Samaritan Inc. empowerment rally, scheduled for noon-4 p.m. Oct. 8 at Potter Park, was approved. Curtis Brewer said about 300 to 400 were expected to attend.

• An Oct. 22 water walk event between Trinity Methodist Church and Green Acres Park was approved. Participants would walk from the church to the park, fill a jug with water from the lake and empty it onto a water tank at the church. The water will be returned to the lake, and no street closures will be required.

• A sale of a striping machine, originally on the agenda, was taken off. City Manager Joe Thomas said more details needed to be worked out.