City councilors listen to a presentation.
Cathy Cook | El Defensor Chieftain

Water was a hot topic at the most recent Socorro City Council meeting, with a loan for a sewer project approved and several water rights leases tabled.

The City Council approved a loan agreement with the New Mexico Environment Department for a $10 million sewer project. The project includes an $8 million loan and a $2 million grant.

This is the first time the city has applied to this fund, said City Manager Donald Monette, and the process has been simple. Originally, the city applied for $8.5 million for Evergreen. They asked the state to increase the amount to fund sewage work for Main and were given an additional $1.25 million. Since then, the belt press has gone down at the plant, so the city may have to allocate $1.3 million to fix it.

“We’re borrowing money, borrowing money. It may reflect some increases in rates, so that’s something we should all be aware of,” Mayor Ravi Bhasker told the Council.

After this project, the city will have spent roughly $40 million on sewers, beginning with Harold Drive over a decade ago, Bhasker told the council. That’s including work on Chaparral Drive and Hope Farms Road, but there are still some collapses in the city.

Sewer work on Spring Street may wait until a Highway Department project, because they may add money for a sewer, said Bhasker.

The Council tabled a decision on two water rights lease applications so that councilors can get more questions answered before approving. Council member Michael Olguin had quite a few questions about how the price for leases is determined and if the availability of water rights are advertised.

The City leases water rights to farmers for five-year increments. The lease requests were from Jesus Carrete and Kyle Duggins, for 6 acre-feet and 7.5 acre-feet. One of the properties is in the city and one is in the county.

The City previously leased 160-acre feet to a farmer in the county, a five-year lease that will come due next year. Bhasker said he’d prefer they not renew the lease, and said he believes the city should prioritize water rights leases within the city limits.

The price for water rights has doubled since that lease was signed, he said.

“It’s going to even increase when the marijuana people start needing water,” said Bhasker.

In a separate matter, the Council heard from Richard Chavez, who has been running teen dances at the Socorro Teen Center. Chavez said that the bi-monthly dances began in October and have been averaging 40 attendees recently. Background checks are run on all adult volunteers, he said.

Bhasker said that the city is not allowing them to use the Teen Center any longer because there is no on-paper agreement that the city’s insurance has approved of, and he’s heard of some unspecified “other issues,” related to the dances.

In other business:

-The Council approved 12 budget resolutions, including creating a new fund to put money in for the Socorro Senior Center.

-The Council approved sponsoring 12 Cottonwood Valley Charter School students headed on a trip to D.C. with $582. The money would be used to purchase matching t-shirts for the trip, which must include the City of Socorro logo. Mayor Ravi Bhasker voiced his opposition to the decision, pointing out that this is the third group of Cottonwood Valley Charter School students that the City Council has agreed to sponsor recently, and he believes sponsoring school trips with city funds—especially if all those sponsorships are for one school in the community—sets a bad precedent.

-The Council approved a proclamation recognizing May as Motorcycle Awareness Month. The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration declares May “Motorcycle Awareness Month,” and the mayor’s office wanted to join NHTSA in raising awareness of the “growing number of motorcyclists on Socorro’s roadways in order to help prevent accidents and most importantly, save lives,” the proclamation reads. The proclamation also recognizes New Mexico’s road systems as providing “some of the most magnificent riding in the United States, making Socorro an ideal location for motorcycle use.”

The next City Council meeting will be Tuesday, May 2, at 6 p.m. in the Council chambers at City Hall.

Business Registrations

The City Council approved five business registrations.

  • 3 Clubs, LLC, a cannabis Production Farm in Veguita. Paul Margeno is listed as the owner.
  • Chili Peppers Boutique, a women’s clothing store at 705 N. California St., owned by Jessi Staton.
  • Mira Enterprises, Inc., a commercial general contractor based in Eastland, Texas, owned by William Batleas.
  • Sequoia Landscaping, Inc., a landscape and irrigation business based in Albuquerque and owned by Ralph Martinez.
  • Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP, a law firm with an address on California Street. The listed owner is Jocelyn Sexsmith.

The business registration for Circle K #2706998, to be located at 1006 N. California St. was not approved yet, although it was on the agenda. The liquor license transfer application paperwork was incorrect, as it was for a liquor license with on premise consumption only instead of a package liquor license. The transfer was also on the agenda but was tabled for a future meeting.