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Prospectors' Annual Legislative Information forum, 120913, Part 8

Editor's Note: This is Part 8 of a multi-part series on the Prospectors' forum, which was held on Dec. 9. Then the holidays happened, and the rest of the articles did not get written.

Gila Conservation Coalition Director Allyson Siwik continued with non-profit sector requests.

"I want to give you an update on the Arizona Water Settlements Act process," Siwik said. "It will be a big topic this year. It was signed in 2004 and settled Native American issues in Arizona and allocated 14,000 average annual acre-feet of water from the Gila River in exchange for Central Arizona Project water.  In non-reimbursable funding, $66 million was allocated for the four counties to meet water supply demands."

If New Mexico chooses to construct a New Mexico unit, there is an additional $34 million to $62 million based on interest in the Lower Colorado River Basin Fund," she said.

"The Gila Conservation Coalition has three major concerns," Siwik said. "A Gila River diversion is expensive, costing $200 million to $300 million. The area has to pay exchange costs of $2 million annually for the water.

"A diversion is unnecessary, because we are sitting on a lot of water in southwest New Mexico," she opined. "Other alternatives are more cost-effective.

"The third major issue will be the impact," Siwik said. "A diversion will take water from high flows, but also from low flows."

In 2014, the state will make a preliminary decision in August, with the final decision coming in November, whether or not to divert. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Interstate Stream Commission are doing studies. Some are ready now.

The ISC is looking at preliminary engineering reports and modifying projects," she said,

"We at the coalition are concerned about transparency," Siwik said. "There is still a huge lack of information available. Our principal concern is what is the legislative role in the AWSA decision. What is the tension between the legislative and executive branches? The high cost of the water and the lack of transparency are a concern, when non-diversion projects can provide plenty of water."

Rep. Rodolpho "Rudy" Martinez asked: "Does the ISC have to submit one project or several?"

"The ISC did say it could approve one or a group," Siwik replied. "It will be unclear until August."

"The original funding to meet water supply demands was $66 million," Martinez said. "Has it increased?"

"In 2013 dollars, it is about a $90-million non-reimbursable pot of money," Siwik said.

"At the Drought Subcommittee meetings, they discussed what direction to take—municipal or agricultural," Martinez said.

Sen. Howie Morales thanked Siwik for the update. "In the Senate Finance Committee, we don't have much to do with it. It is in the hands of the ISC. I am not clear what our role will be. Will it be at the ISC's discretion?"

"That is a concern for us," Siwik said. "Section 2.12 of the act says the ISC shall make the decision. I don't know if there is a legislative role."

"I will keep an eye on it," Morales said. "There are a lot of questions. What are the checks and balances for the proper process? "

Siwik said the New Mexico Unit Fund requires reporting to the LFC and the Water and Natural Resources Committee at a minimum. There is opportunity there for legislators to ask questions.

"The ISC has to approve staff recommendations in public meetings," Siwik confirmed.

"The section you cited—is that in the federal or state legislation?" Martinez asked.

"In the federal AWSA," Siwik said.

Silver City MainStreet Project was represented by Manager Francis Bee.

"I want to tell you what MainStreet does," Bee said as he read the mission and vision statements. "It encourages a vibrant historic downtown and economic development.

MainStreet is active in economic development, beautification and design work, as recommended by the New Mexico MainStreet Program. "We have done projects that are bricks and mortar, including the sidewalks, the Big Ditch Park, building the Visitor Center and putting in streetlights," Bee continued. "We are now working with the town of Silver City on the Silco Theater. "

"We work with the Historic Preservation Division, NM MainStreet, the Department of Economic Development and for renovations with the NM Finance Authority," Bee said. "We are also working with the Silver City Police Department on developing best practices for minimizing crime and nuisance.

"We are in dialogue with the state Film Office and have participated in the town Forestry Plan and the Big Ditch Development Plan," he continued.

"What is the Silco Theater renovation about?" Bee said is a question he hears. "According to Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela, he sees the Theater District as an economic development tool.  MainStreet is managing the project for the town. We recently reconstructed the marquee. Once the renovations are complete, we think we will have people take the extra step to purchase or lease the building.

"Our request for monies is indirect through New Mexico MainStreet," Bee said. "In June, we received $170,000 toward purchase of the theater. NMFA helped arrange the loan. Then we received $137,500 in capital outlay. We need $300,000 additional to complete the renovation. The $137,500 will be used to remove non-historic artifacts from the building

"We also want to continue to develop the River Walk and the MainStreet Plaza, known to most as the Farmers' Market, into an area to include a stage" Bee said. "The full budget is available.

"When will the theater be completed?" Rep. Dianne Hamilton asked.

"By the fourth of July," Bee said.

"Will it be a commercial theater?" Hamilton asked.

"It won't be for first-run movies, but we will get movies 6-8 weeks after the first run," Bee said. "The operator of the theater will keep more of the receipts, and the rent will pay off the loan for the office space."

"I know so many people go to Deming for movies," Hamilton said. "Will the Silco be used for anything else?"

"While we are renovating, no rent will be coming in the first year," Bee said. "Then we will close again to reopen the orchestra pit and balcony to be a performing art venue in addition to films."

Morales said: "It will take $350,000 to complete. At the last Finance Committee meeting, we asked Barela what his plans were. We were asked to appropriate $500,000 for all the MainStreet projects. Barela indicated that part of the Silco would be paid from private donations."

"Elmo Baca knows where we are," Bee said.

"We will still push for the statewide dollars.," Morales said. "I will talk to Elmo."

Bee confirmed: "I know other MainStreet projects are also asking for substantial sums."

Mimbres Region Arts Council Executive Director Faye McCalmont spoke next.

"The Mimbres Region Arts Council has provided 34 years of services to the community," McCalmont said. "We produce some of the largest events. It is cultural tourism.

"We ask for your support for an increase in service contracts to the arts councils through New Mexico Arts, as well as to Tourism Co-op funding.," she said. "We partner with the Silver City Arts and Cultural District.

"We appreciate your work cooperating with other agencies," Morales said. "The appropriation side is through Cultural Affairs. We give the amount to the department. How do you receive funding?"

"We have a competitive process," McCalmont said. "Our funding has decreased from $15,000 to $7,000."

"I ask you to send me numbers," Morales said.

"Is your operating budget based on what you receive from Cultural Arts?" Martinez asked.

"We have a $350,000 budget, but we get only $7,000 from the state," McCalmont said. "We are creative in getting other funding. That's why we partner. We use the state funding for administration, staff and myself for events.

"Please give the information to us," Martinez requested.

Non-profit sector reports continue in the final three articles.

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