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Grant County Water Commission hears from NMFA

The Grant County Water Commission held a brief meeting Thursday, Jan. 10.

Rick Martinez, chief of Client Services, New Mexico Finance Authority, discussed a Colonias Infrastructure Fund award received by the town of Silver City for the regional preliminary engineering report for the regional water project the town has proposed.

Alex Brown, Silver City town manager and water commission chairman, said the funding had been applied to the water project.

Martinez said he had met with the mayors of the region and there is a potential for Colonias funding for the regional water project.

The Colonias Infrastructure Fund will have additional money this year, with $16.6 million from the state and $8.2 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as some from the Community Development Block Grant program for a total of about $25 million.

"I want to strategize with you to connect your planning money to other funding for the regional water project," Martinez said. "We want to collectively get funding to combine to pay for the project. The application cycle opens today, with March 15 as the submittal date."

Another thing to consider, he said, was that he thinks the leaders of the various communities think the autonomy of their water systems is important.

"You have a joint-powers agreement," Martinez said. "A regional water authority also works well. If you're talking about regionalizing, you can have equal water rates across the region and a funding authority."

He said Colonias has a grant award that he wishes to strategize on for funding.  "My advice to you is that, as best you can, you should strategize together how and what you apply for. I keep emphasizing this, so I can take it to the board and show this is exactly what the money is for. I can also help you strategize."

Hurley Mayor Edward Encinas said he would like to know the status of the 2012 applications, "because we in Hurley are going regional with Bayard and Santa Clara."

Martinez said if it were a grant that had been applied for, it should have been awarded and the dollars available by now. If it were a grant/loan combination, they should be closed out by the end of the month.

Brown said the Town Council adopted a resolution accepting the award, but had not yet received the contract. Martinez said he would check on it and get back to him.

Brown gave a brief history of the regional water project, explaining that the town had transferred 193 acre-feet of water rights to Hurley from the Silver City water rights near the airport.  Hurley has no water system, but has been receiving water through Kennecott and its predecessors over the years. About three years ago, the company said it would only provide water to the town for another eight years, so Hurley has been working ever since on getting its own water source.

The town of Silver City is also working on a reuse credit, which would be another 70 acre-feet at the airport, which is closer to Hurley than to Silver City.

Silver City also has four water systems connected already regionally. Bayard Mayor Charles Kelly said Bayard's water system is connected to Hanover on an emergency basis.

Brown said the project would connect east to west and north to south so the water could go in any direction. "We estimate it will cost $24 million to connect all the pieces."

Martinez said the Environmental Protection Agency Clean Water Fund might also be a source of funding with an up to 75 percent grant and 25 percent loan with no interest. "You could leverage the Colonias dollars as a match for the federal funds."

"The governor's office knows that we are working with you," Martinez said. "I'm pitching your project everywhere I can."

Encinas pointed out that Hurley has a time limit of five years left to be an independent water system.

"That's why it would be good to get big dollars, so the region does not have to do the regional water project in 10 phases," Martinez said.

"We'll be working together," Brown said.

Priscilla Lucero, Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments executive director asked a question about implementation of awards and what processes recipients have to follow.

Brown followed that up saying Hurley has already done its preliminary engineering report, and Silver City has gone out to bid for its PER. He asked if that work could be used.

Martinez said the NMFA allows municipalities to use their regular engineering firms. "What we require is to follow state procurement law. Any other questions feel free to call me."

Brown said as soon as the town receives the agreement, it will hold public meetings, so the public "knows what we're doing."

The next meeting date was not set because of the legislative session. Brown said entities would be notified when a date was set.

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