Where does the water go?

........................................................................................................................................................................................

The Socorro City Council held a Community Development Block Grant hearing during its regular meeting Oct. 21, and the hot topic was drainage.

Utilities division director Jay Santillanes started discussion with CDBG eligibility requirements. Counties and incorporated municipalities can apply for CDBG funds. He said current CDBG projects must be completed by a certain date; last year it was Jan. 15, but this year a deadline hasn’t yet been determined — although it probably won’t be before Jan. 15. He noted the city’s current CDBG project, the Highlands Detention Pond, would be closed out that night, so the city will by far meet any January deadline.

Santillanes listed several other CDBG eligibility requirements, such as the project must be consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan and be included on its infrastructure capital improvement plan. CDBG funds can’t be used for general administration, such as to build a city hall or courthouse. The City Council must select a project to improve an area of the city where mainly low- to moderate-income residents live.

Mable Gonzales, the city’s finance director, spoke up during the public hearing as a resident of Texas Avenue. She thanked the council for the previous three projects, generally called Cuba Road drainage projects, which have helped alleviate flooding issues in the areas of Texas Avenue and Meek Street.

Gonzales added Oscar Acosta was also at the meeting representing residents of that area. She asked the council to put the neighborhood on the next CDBG project request.

“That water comes through this area like you wouldn’t believe,” Gonzales said. “So it will not only help for flooding if we could get curb and pavement there, it’ll also help the road.”

She explained Texas Avenue is “like a washboard” due to being flooded so much. She said curb and pavement will help the water get to the drainage ditch.

Lloyd Martinez, water superintendent and parks department director, spoke as a resident on behalf of his father, who lives on Second Street.

“All these projects that they have done have caused more problems for my dad,” Martinez said.

Martinez explained the city’s projects have made a funnel that directs water to Second Street and Hope Farms Road. He said his father’s property hasn’t flooded in over 30 years, but it flooded this year. He said there is nowhere for the water to go, and instead of funneling more water into that area, the city should find a way to get the water drained out.

Martinez suggested doing a project by the railroad tracks and Hope Farms Road, working with the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District to get water drained out of the area. He said the city can drain “all the water you want,” but if the ditches are full there is nowhere for it to drain. He said the problem gets worse with each project done to address drainage issues elsewhere.

Santillanes said the projects, such as ponds, have been designed to slow water flow. He said as the city grows and there is more pavement, more floodwater will flow faster. He added the city still hasn’t addressed drainage issues on Cuba Road.

Santillanes said the city developed a drainage plan for the whole area about seven or eight years ago. Projects have not been completed in the exact sequence originally proposed, but the city has followed the plan in general. He noted the Texas Avenue drainage wasn’t part of that plan.

Councilor Nick Fleming asked if the railroad would work with the city to put a larger drain under the tracks.

“Well, stranger things have happened,” Santillanes said.

He said, however, making a larger culvert under the tracks is tough because it interferes with the integrity of the tracks. He said the city could possibly work with MRGCD to open a pond where the drainage happens and then pump it to remove water more quickly.

“But again, that’s another project,” Santillanes said.

Santillanes said the city will plan on another CDBG public hearing at the council’s next meeting Nov. 4, then possibly a third hearing a day or two after that.

In other business, the Socorro City Council:

• Approved an amendment to a task order with Dennis Engineering for the waterline replacement project. Gonzales explained the increase is to cover the environmental information documents required for the project.

• Approved the final change order for the Highlands Detention Pond CDBG project. Santillanes said it was the final closeout for the project and the change order is only for time, not a change in money, because the contractor had a delay in receiving payment from CDBG.

• Approved a budget resolution for the wastewater improvement fund. The resolution states the $1.2 million increase to the wastewater fund is to allow for the New Mexico Environment Department’s loan and grant award through the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund.

Gonzales explained the $1.2 million allows the city to do the next phase of the wastewater project on Hope Farms Road.