Friday, October 16, 2009

Capital Projects in the Parks

Tierra de Suenos neighborhood park received some recent upgrades thanks to City crews in October. The park now has a basketball court and new landscaping. In addition, a pathway was paved from the road to the playground, pavilion, and basketball court, to allow access for all patrons. I would like to thank to all the City crews who put in time on this project: the water shop ran the reclaimed system piping for irrigation; the streets division laid asphalt for the paved trail; and the parks division added the basketball paving and hoop, and new landscaping. It was a great team effort.

This summer a new picnic area was established in a pocket park on the north side of Panorama Blvd. This project is also due to the work of the parks and the streets divisions.

Balloon Fiesta Park planning is now complete and the construction phase is beginning. The area at LaVelle Road has been cleared. This will become a 20-acre park, available to residents year-round, and the home base for our annual balloon fiesta starting next September. The construction phase will include irrigation piping, balloon launch pads, access roads and parking, utility installation to provide potable water and electricity for vendors, and a runway for remote control planes. Grass seed should be planted next spring, and the field will be irrigated with our reclaimed water system. The park will also feature a multi-use trail around the perimeter.

Friday, October 2, 2009

City of Alamogordo Budget Message for Fiscal Year 2009/2010

The fiscal year 2010 Budget was developed during one of the most challenging economic times in the history of the United States. The downturn in the national economy affected our key source of revenue, the Gross Receipts Tax. The Gross Receipts Tax is economically sensitive, which means it historically declines when the economy is in a downturn. Last fiscal year we had a substantial decline on our collections of Gross Receipt Tax of approximately $756,000, compared to the prior year (FY08). For the current fiscal year (2010), we projected a zero percent (0%) growth over the prior year collections. In addition, property tax is expected to be stagnant, with no increase in growth due to flat valuations and a projected decrease in new construction due to the restrictive credit market.

The long term water needs of the community continue to be a major focus of the City of Alamogordo. Staff has been working very hard to improve well production by updating equipment and re-drilling several existing wells. In addition, improvements were made to the mountain surface flow collection system in the Lower, Middle, and Upper Fresnal to improve capacity. Repairs were made to the covers at the La Luz Reservoirs that were damaged by the remnants of Hurricane Dolly. The New Mexico Court of Appeals determination of the District Court ruling on the water rights allocation at the new well field north of town (also known as Snake tank) and the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) are scheduled to be completed this fiscal year. The short term prognosis for water this year is good, the forecast is for a wet winter, the reservoirs are full, the well fields are rested, and as discussed, improvements to existing wells have been completed.

The largest capital project in the history of the City of Alamogordo is taking place this fiscal year. A total of thirteen (13) streets are being reconstructed. The street reconstruction includes water and sewer line replacement as well as ADA improvements. These major capital projects are funded by the 2004 ¼% and 2008 ¼% Gross Receipts Tax dedicated for street maintenance and street capital improvements.

The recommended budget represents reductions in expenses; staff reductions, service cutbacks, operating capital reductions and the reorganization of functions within departments. City employees and departments are called upon to do more with less. The recommended budget has placed a freeze on sixteen (16) full time positions, and seven (7) part-time positions, for a total savings of $688,096.

The City Commission and City Staff will continue to plan and work as efficiently as possible to continue to provide the quality programs and services the citizens of Alamogordo currently enjoy.

Respectively Submitted:

Matt Mc Neile, Interim City Manager

Monday, August 10, 2009

Safe Routes to School Committee

On August 5, as the sun was rising, Safe Routes to School Committee members were busy painting the curb on Alaska Avenue in front of Sacramento Elementary school. Painters included City staff, a DPS officer, Otero PATH staff, and Otero Walkability Advocacy Group board members. The Safe Routes to School program is funded through the Department of Transportation. The City is the fiscal agent for this current planning grant, and Sacramento Elementary is the partner school. The City will be able to apply for more funding to improve infrastructure in that area once the Action Plan phase is completed.
The curbs are now painted: green for drop off / pick up only, which changes the old pattern that allowed prolonged parking; red for a fire zone which means no parking at any time; blue for a handicapped student drop off/ pick up area only; and yellow at the crosswalk areas. Yellow also indicates no parking and caution for pedestrians. This new pattern is intended to improve traffic flow and get rid of any street parking in front of Sacramento school, which can cause a dangerous situation during the hgh traffic of school start and end times.
Committee members will work with Sacramento school faculty to implement an education campaign about the new traffic flow.

Monday, July 6, 2009

New Otter Arrives from the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago

Summer is the perfect time to bring family and visitors for a picnic, or leisurely stroll in the
shade, at the zoo. We have special surprises in store for you if you haven’t visited us recently. Anna now shares her large exhibit and two-tiered swimming pool with Charlie, our new North American River Otter; and they are getting along famously. They are the same age, and Charlie was rescued, like Anna.

He was sent to us because we had ample room for him, and in the hopes that they might mate.
In the past, river otters lived along the Rio Grande riparian zone in New Mexico, but hunting
and habitat encroachment depleted their numbers in the southwest United States. Conservation
efforts are being made to stabilize populations. In some wild river areas of New Mexico they are now being reintroduced. The zookeepers are proud to have these otters in their care, here on exhibit at the Alameda Park Zoo. These two are very playful and they like to show off for visitors.

The photo above shows Charlie and Anna
playing underwater.

In the wild: North American river
otters build their homes, or dens, in
burrows left by other aquatic mammals
or in natural hollows along river banks.
Dens have underwater entrances and a
tunnel leading to a nest chamber that
is lined for warmth and comfort with
leaves, grass, moss, bark, and hair.
River otters can make a variety of
noises to communicate.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Status of the New Gross Receipts Tax for Street Projects

The City has an on-going street maintenance program which is funded by a 2004 gross receipts tax. The money collected from this portion of our community’s tax pays for construction, reconstruction or improvements of municipal streets, alleys or bridges. For instance, this can include projects such as crack sealing and slurry sealing. Each year approximately $1.5 million from this fund is spent on street improvements. Most recently Alaska, 16th, and 23rd Streets were repaved. In addition, in March of 2008 the voters approved an additional ¼ of one percent tax (or 0.25%) to our City’s gross receipt tax rate for new street projects. This tax went into effect on July 1st of this year. The tax is received by the City two months in arrears; therefore the first collection of this tax was received in September. Last month, over $116,000 was collected for just this streets capital outlay portion of the gross receipts tax. The City has pledged this tax revenue source to obtain a low-interest loan to fund high cost multiple street projects at once. This means that projects can start sooner and that we can get more done with the same amount of money. The following projects were identified as the initial priorities from this fund: Cornell, 18th, Indiana, New York, 12th, Bellamah, College, 15th, Delaware, Maryland, Florida, Plainview, and Hamilton, for a total cost of over $14.5 million. This will include required ADA upgrades that will accompany each project. Initially the City will be working on half of these street projects. The current loan is for $7.3 million. The other half will be borrowed after the first set of projects is nearing completion. Almost always, repaving is preceded by water and/ or sewer line work. It is more cost effective to replace the water/sewer lines that are in need of replacement before paving occurs. These items also cost a significant amount and are not funded by the same gross receipts tax. The funds must come from other sources. Engineering work is required for the streets that need water/sewer line repair first, and this preliminary work has already begun. We know that street improvements are of the utmost importance to the citizens of Alamogordo. The low-interest loan for the street work has just been approved by the funding agency and accepted by the City Commission. It will take some time to get the work contracted and scheduled. We will keep you updated as to what street project is beginning and when. Remember that the water line and ADA work will happen first, before you see any of these streets being repaved. Thank you for your support of these Public Works projects.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Go Bond Election

DFA sets the Debt Service Rates based on the outstanding G.O. Bond Debt Issues. DFA considers the Fund Balance and annual debt service to be made in the following year and bases the tax rate on that. Since the 1996 G.O. Bond matures with a final payment on 06/01/2009 – the tax rate was lowered. Although we have considered issuing a new debt to take the place of the old debt, this must be decided by holding an election. In order for DFA to consider a new issue, the election must be held that passes a new debt service for a general obligation debt. An election to consider a new debt issue could be held in March of 2009. Although the Debt Service Tax Rate was changed by DFA from 0.2261 percent to 0.1724 percent based on the Fund Balance, RBC Capital Markets has informed the City that $10 million dollars can be raised utilizing the lower Debt Service Tax Rate of 0.1724 percent by making a larger principal payment against the debt in the later years of the issue. RBC Capital Markets has also indicated that the City can raise $15 million dollars by utilizing the original Debt Service Tax Rate of 0.2261 percent. The difference in the property tax payment on a residential property valued at $150,000 at a Debt Service Tax Rate of 0.2261 percent which would raise $15 million compared to a Debt Service Tax Rate of 0.1724 percent which would raise $10 million is $26.85 per year. There are a number of projects that can be completed by using the money generated by the General Obligation Bond if the citizens vote to enact the issue. The list of potential projects was developed from needs identified in the City of Alamogordo Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan (ICIP 2009 – 2013), public input during the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) meetings, City of Alamogordo Community Services Department Five Year Park and Open Space Comprehensive Master Plan (2008-2012), and input from the Alamogordo City Commission. Staff has not prioritized the list of potential projects as they have all been identified as a need in the community.

Library Project
$ 3,500,000.00
Oregon Tennis Court Rebuild
$ 500,000.00
Youth Football Field Improvements
$ 200,000.00
Neighborhood Park Development
$ 150,000.00
Alameda Park Zoo Entrance Building
$ 300,000.00
Fire Station # 8 Construction
$ 900,000.00

Senior Center Therapy Pool
$ 500,000.00
Solar Heating Panels for the Rec Center Pool
$ 150,000.00
Washington Park Spray Park or Sprayground
$ 1,000,000.00
Parking Lot Paving at Kids Kingdom and the AFRC
$ 85,000.00
City Entryway Streetscape Beautification
$ 100,000.00
Skateboard Park Resurface and Halfpipe Addition
$ 100,000.00
Trail System Construction
$ 75,000.00
150' Flag Pole and 60' x 30' Flag at City Hall
$ 50,000.00
$ 7,610,000.00

Street Projects

Pecan Drive
$ 170,000.00
Ninth Street Bridge Rebuild
$ 150,000.00
First Street (White Sands to Relief Route)
$ 500,000.00

$ 820,000.00

Wastewater Treatment Plant Engineering & Design
$ 1,500,000.00
$ 1,500,000.00

Hooser Park Detention Pond Expansion
$ 70,000.00
$ 70,000.00

All Project Total
$ 10,000,000.00

Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion
$ 5,000,000.00
$ 5,000,000.00

All Project Total + Additional Bonding
$ 15,000,000.00

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Alamogordo Regional Water Supply Project

What is an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)?

An Environmental Impact Statement is an analysis of the ways that a proposed project might impact environmental and socioeconomic resources. In general, when a project will take place on federal land or be paid for with federal funds, the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) requires that an EIS be prepared as the basis for determining whether the project should be undertaken. NEPA is the nation’s broadest environmental law. It applies to all federal agencies and most of the activities they manage, regulate, or fund that affect the human environment. An EIS also analyzes the potential effects of any proposed alternatives to a project, including the No Action alternative, that is, not doing anything at all.

Why is an EIS required for the Alamogordo Regional Water Supply Project?

While the City of Alamogordo is the sponsor of the proposed Project, the Project proposes to develop and operate 10 wells on land under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approximately 10 miles north of Tularosa, New Mexico, to run water transmission lines within BLM right-of-way from the wells to a water treatment facility, and to use funds provided by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) for part of the Project's cost. NEPA requires that the BLM and Reclamation base their decisions about whether to grant right-of-way permission and allocate funds for the Project on the results of an assessment of environmental impacts. The BLM and Reclamation have determined that an EIS must be prepared to comply with all aspects of NEPA, since the proposed Project could have significant environmental impacts within the project area.

EIS Project Management Team

City of Alamogordo ...............Sponsor of the Project
BLM ........................................Federal Lead Agency for the Project

The BLM and the City have contracted with SWCA Environmental Consultants of Albuquerque to assist with the preparation of the required EIS.

The purpose of this EIS is to:

  • Evaluate the potential for environmental and socioeconomic impacts that could result from the Project .
  • Compare and analyze Project alternatives, including the consequences of not developing the Project.
  • Provide the BLM with information for making their decisions.
  • Track and document the process used to reach those decisions.
  • Provide the public with all of this information.

To meet the purpose and need of the Project, this EIS will also identify:

  • Location(s) of wells that would supply water for the Project and would be permittable at the federal, state, and local levels.
  • Location(s) of water transmission lines from the wells to a treatment facility.
  • Location of a treatment facility.
  • Water treatment methods .
  • Method(s) for managing concentrate generated from the water treatment process.
  • Location(s) of water transmission line(s) from the treatment facility to the Alamogordo region customers.

What decisions will result from the EIS?

Based on the results of the impact analyses in the EIS, the BLM will decide whether to grant the City right-of-way across BLM land for Project for pipelines and wells, and Reclamation will decide whether to provide partial funding the Project. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) encourages public involvement as a way to help federal agencies make good decisions about drinking water projects. Our project team believes that a successful Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) incorporates a broad range of public viewpoints.