The City of Socorro unveiled its top priorities for the 2020 legislative session that opens Tuesday, January 21.
During Monday night's city council meeting, Mayor Ravi Bhasker asked the council to consider hiring a lobbyist for this year's legislative session for $15,000. After a few contentious moments between the council and Bhasker, the council approved the measure by a vote of 6 to 1. Councilor Michael Olguin Jr. cast the lone dissenting vote. Voting in favor of hiring a lobbyist were Councilors Gordy Hicks, Peter Romero, Anton Salome, Nick Fleming, Debra Dean and Mary Ann Chavez-Lopez. Councilor Toby Jaramillo was absent.
The top priorities laid out by the city make infrastructure the focus in this year's session, highlighting the need for Bullock Avenue reconstruction, and financing of the city's broadband project.
The estimated cost of the Bullock Avenue project is $1.5 million. Possible sources of funding to help with the project are the Governor's office, the Lt. Governor's office, and the New Mexico Department of Transportation.
The city has instructed its lobbyist, Matejka Santillanes of MJS Consulting, to work with New Mexico Tech to help "co-sponsor" this request as Bullock Avenue is a main thoroughfare to the university.
Funding also is sought for the city broadband project to utilize as a "match" for the USDA ReConnect grant should the city be awarded the grant. The requested amount is $300,000. The funds would be used to develop a fixed-wireless broadband system throughout Socorro.
The best source of funding would more than likely be the Governor's office, as it is promoting an initiative to get broadband in rural New Mexico.
The third top priority is to keep an eye on any proposed legislation by rural electric cooperatives, to interrupt the city's efforts to develop a municipal electric utility.
Other areas of focus would involve obtaining funding for the refurbishing of Finley Gym complex, funding for the completion of the Convention Center as well as funding for a new E911 system.
To help refurbish Finley gym, the city is requesting $250,000 to have the documents ready for a Community Development Block Grant match during the next funding cycle in 2021.
Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars also is sought to help with the completion of the Convention Center. City officials are asking its lobbyist to seek possible funding from the Department of Cultural Affairs since displays from the previous El Camino Real Historic Trail Site will be housed in part of the convention center.
With its current E911 system almost inoperable, the city is hoping to get state funds to help with the $450,000 in new equipment. The city currently dispatches for the City of Socorro police, fire, and EMS departments. Most recently, the city has spoken with Socorro County to dispatch for the Sheriff's Department. The city does have a quote from a state vendor for $447,051.40 to replace its current system.
Finally, the city requesting MJS to use its expertise in securing additional funding for the following projects: $200,000 for the city's new utility and financial system for the city; $150,000 to remove asbestos and demolish an existing, abandoned building on the old Eagle Picher site and to install a perimeter fence; and $100,000 for general repaving projects within the city limits.
In other business, the city council approved new business licenses for Albuquerque Asphalt Inc., CC Construction, Hotspot Ranch, Gazelle Stay (Movement Motor Inns, LLC, and CAS Enterprises, Inc.