At the July 26, 2023, meeting of the Mountainair Town Council, Mayor Peter Nieto warned attendees that the August 1, 2023, session would be lengthy. Last night's meeting focused on ordinances relating to utility rate changes, purchasing parts for water meters, and hiring new employees. While it was long by Mountainair Town Council standards, the two-hour meeting was still substantially shorter than some of the epic, workday-length meetings of the Torrance County Board of County Commissioners.
The town council meeting began with a brief public hearing on the town's Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan (ICIP), which the town would submit to the State of New Mexico to obtain financial backing for critical projects. Following this public hearing, the town council went into an executive session for roughly 90 minutes to discuss Mountainair hiring workers in the town's public works department and for what would be the re-establishment of the town's police department.
Upon returning from the executive session, no council member indicated whether the town council had made hiring decisions. However, as will be discussed, the council did decide to push back action on motions to hire public works and police employees.
Red Kingston presented a public statement to the town council regarding operations and improvements at the JP Helms Rodeo Arena. Kingston spoke about the history of the gymkhana rodeo at the arena, how the rodeo was initially created to provide families something to do after church, and how deceased county commissioner LeRoy Candelaria had been instrumental in helping develop the rodeo grounds for the gymkhana events. Reflecting on the impact of his relationship with Candelaria, Kingston was choked up as he reminisced about the county commissioner. Kingston went on to say that Candelaria's replacement, Sam Schropp (Torrance County-3 Democrat), had also been supportive of efforts to improve the rodeo grounds and make them profitable to Mountainair. Kingston explained that he believed the grounds needed RV hookups, as the RV spots at the rodeo grounds could be a potential revenue source even when there were no rodeo events.
Following Kingston's statement, the town council addressed Resolution 2023-20, which addressed the adoption of the Mountainair Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan discussed in the preceding public hearing. Upon a motion by Mayor Pro Tem Gayle Jones, seconded by Councilor Dustin Kayser, the council unanimously approved the ICIP.
Proposed Utility Rate Changes
Mayor Nieto brought proposed Ordinance 02-2023 before the town council, which pertained to the rate change for water services addressed at public hearings on May 30, 2023, and July 3, 2023. Nieto described the rate increase as "just a $3.00 to $5.00 estimated increase" and said the water rates would also automatically increase at 5% each year on July 1. Ordinance 02-2023 passed on a three-to-one motion, with council member Ernie Lopez being the sole vote opposing the measure. (All of the proposed rate change ordinances can be found in the public notice at this link.)
The town council next addressed proposed Ordinance 03-2023, which increased the rates for wastewater services. Mayor Nieto, who brought 03-2023 before the council, explained that the proposed ordinance would raise the rates for residential customers in Mountainair by $2.00, $3.00 for specific classes of commercial customers, and $4.00 for all other commercial businesses. The wastewater utility rates also included an automatic annual increase of 3% each July 1. The town council approved this rate increase in a three-to-one vote, with Councilor Ernie Lopez being the opposing vote for the ordinance.
Solid Waste Services
Mayor Nieto proposed Ordinance 04-2023, increasing solid waste disposal services rates. Nieto said that a solid waste disposal contractor had advised that they would provide the town with a new service proposal. Therefore he recommended tabling the proposed rate change. The town council unanimously approved tabling the matter pending the proposal.
Natural Gas Services
The town council next addressed the utility that likely inspired all actions on utility rates: natural gas. Proposed Ordinance 05-2023 addressed increases to natural gas services in the following fashion.
- The cost of the first 1,000 cubic feet would increase by $6.00 to a minimum of $31.00;
- The cost of the next 2,000 cubic feet of natural gas would be charged at a rate of $1.25/100 cubic feet, an increase of $0.10 per 100 cubic feet;
- The cost of the next 2,000 cubic feet of natural gas would be charged at a rate of $1.10/100 cubic feet, another $0.10/100 cubic feet increase;
- For the next 95,000 cubic feet of natural gas, the rate would increase by $0.10 to $1.00/100 cubic feet;
- Finally, for all natural gas provided that is more than 100,000 cubic feet, the rate would increase by $0.10 to $0.90/100 cubic feet.
There would be an annual automatic rate increase for natural gas at 3%.
The town council approved the rate change in a three-to-one vote, with Councilor Ernie Lopez being the opposing vote for the ordinance.
Purchase of Valves from New Mexico Meters
As part of the upgrade to the wireless water meters by New Mexico Meters, Mayor Nieto requested the town council's approval to purchase new valves for the meters from New Mexico Meters. The cost of the new valves would be $3,114. The town council unanimously approved this request.
With respect to the issues that brought the town council into executive session, the hiring of public works employees and police officers, the town council tabled the hiring decisions by unanimous vote.
Before the meeting adjourned, Mayor Nieto spoke about the upcoming festivities for the Mountainair Birthday this weekend. The next regular meeting of the town council is scheduled for August 15, 2023, at 6:00 PM.