Water board members talk resolution options

By Alisa Boswell
Managing Editor
aboswell@pntonline.com

PORTALES — Board members of the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority came together to discuss their options Tuesday after Portales city councilors refused to approve a resolution last week.

ENMWUA Executive Director Justin Howalt said every other authority member community — Curry County, Roosevelt County, city of Clovis, town of Elida, town of Grady and town of Texico — had already passed the resolution. The resolution states that if something were to happen to ENMWUA to cause it to not be able to pay existing and future loans, member communities would take care of it.

Portales city councilors had a heated debate with ENMWUA members at their Nov. 15 meeting in which city councilors and officials expressed concerns over being responsible for debt on a project that won’t benefit them for years to come.

“What we have here is drilling wells in Curry County and elsewhere and piping to the city of Clovis and Cannon Air Force Base for a number of years, and the city of Portales paying for that before there’s any water delivered to the city of Portales,” said City Attorney Randy Knudson during the city council meeting.

Howalt said Tuesday that the New Mexico Finance Authority is requiring the ENMWUA to have signed agreements from all their members agreeing to the stipulation before they close on a $3.1 million loan with the Water Trust Board.

Howalt said there is a Dec. 1 deadline for having all of the resolutions in place, which had already been extended from an April 15 deadline. He told board members they could ask for another extension, but said chances are unlikely.

Howalt said ENMWUA board members met with Portales City Councilor Michael Miller before the last city council meeting; he told them he would compromise by signing a resolution that dealt only with existing loans.

But city councilors still did not pass the altered resolution, tabling it indefinitely.

Howalt said Tuesday that Knudson’s comments regarding ENMWUA drilling wells and buying water rights was inaccurate.

Portales City Manager Sammy Standefer, Mayor Sharon King and City Councilor Jim Lucero told other members that they believe councilors want to remain part of the ENMWUA pipeline project — but their biggest issues with the resolution and the project seem to be numbers increasing as well as the time frame for when Roosevelt County will be reaping the benefits of the pipeline.

“I can’t speak for the council,” Standefer said. “I don’t think Clovis getting the better deal is the concern. I think it’s the $600 million price tag that is the concern … At least that’s the feedback I’m getting.”

Water authority board members ultimately agreed that King, Lucero, Standefer and Howalt would have lunch to discuss city concerns, then Standefer would try to set up a town hall with Portales city councilors and ENMWUA board members next week.

“I think it’s a great idea to have a town hall, because there is a lot of uncertainty,” Lucero said. “It’s a lot to learn; it’s a big price tag, and they’re wondering about that long-term viability.”

If Portales will not pass the resolution, Clovis Mayor David Lansford said he would ask Clovis to agree to extend its credit line with ENMWUA by agreeing to be responsible for Portales’ portion of debt payments if needed.