Angel Fire undertakes major road, utilities upgrades

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With approval of a "Core Area Planning Study of Roadway and Utilities" by HDR Engineering, the village of Angel Fire is ready to move to the next phase of infrastructure improvements to its roads, as well as water and wastewater treatment.

Village councilors approved the plan during its regular meeting Tuesday (Aug. 29) with one change recommended by staff: the removal of funds for an asphalt zipper. Even before voters passed a general obligation bond in September 2016, the village had purchased the zipper - a relatively low-cost grinding machine that can do "reclamation, stabilization, asphalt grinding and milling … from small patches to up to a half a mile per day [according to the website asphaltzipper.com]."

The $131,490 that had been budgeted for the zipper in the plan will be reassigned to other priorities, village officials noted.

The village hired HDR, an architectural, engineering and consulting firm based in Omaha, Nebraska, with an office in Albuquerque, to evaluate street, drainage and utility conditions within the village core area and prioritize implementation of improvement projects to be constructed with Village General Obligation Bond funds.

Project Manager Carl Abrams with HDR presented the plan to village representatives and the public during an Aug. 9 meeting. Construction will be managed by HDR and village staff will manage HDR. Most of the construction will be performed by experienced contractors, as well as village staff.

At the Aug. 9 meeting, Abrams said the plan prioritizes roads based on safety, traffic usage and the conditions of the roads, as well as water and sewer lines. "It doesn't make any sense to work on the roads without working on the utilities underneath."

According to HDR's study, the initial $4,345,801 project includes the following:

• El Camino Real Avenue (from Vail Avenue to Vail Overlook) - $1.047 million street, $533,000 utilities.

• Miller Lane - $98,000 street.

• North Angel Fire Road (cross-street storm-drain inlet grate to Five Springs Road) - $73,000 street.

• Five Springs Road - $115,000 street, $49,000 utilities.

• Valley Road (from North Angel Fire Road to Valley Court) - $744,000 street, $26,000 utilities.

• Vail Avenue - $276,000 street, $415,000 utilities.

• Jackson Hole Road - $262,000 street, $243,000 utilities.

• Aspen Street (cul-de-sac to Vail Avenue) - $91,000 street.

• Aspen Street (Vail Avenue to South Angel Fire Road) - $156,000 street.

• Equipment, Jet Trailer - $86,311 utilities.

In its executive summary, HDR noted, the above rankings considered the following criteria:

• Safety, such as grade, guardrails, signage and evacuation routes.

• Density of residences, evacuation routes and access corridors.

• Condition of surface treatment condition, drainage and utility deficiencies.

"Construction costs were considered in identifying street improvement projects as it relates to cost-effective solutions that effectively allocate funds," the report said. "However, cost was not used as a ranking criterion here because the cost of a project does not necessarily correspond to its need."

The village is still waiting to see what improvements to its wastewater treatment facility will cost, as well as the cost for water storage tanks.

Recap of Aug. 9 GO Bond update meeting

When asked if any of the projects identified in the list provided might not be funded this go-round, Abrams replied, "All are potentially fundable in the this GO Bond cycle unless the village funds more to wastewater treatment or water."

The plan includes recommendations for drainage, driveways that drain into roads and widening existing surfaces, as well as finished road surfaces. Abrams told the public that the majority will be chip seal, some will be gravel.

A questioner asked how the chip seal roadways will be maintained since a previous chip seal project left many village roads full of potholes and with disintegrating road surfaces.

Village Manager Rick Tafoya answered, "We're planning to set some of the GO Bonds aside to maintain the roads."

Another questioner asked how roads will be prioritized "once we move past these core area and into the rest of the community."

Abrams answered candidly, "Picking and choosing is going to be tough. This core area was top priority."

When asked, "Is there going to be enough money to move beyond the core?" Tafoya replied, "The bond will be reissued every year for the next 20 years. Every three years, we'll ask for $4.5 million."

Angel Fire Mayor Barbara Cottam added, "If you don't pass the bonds, work will stop."

A property owner said, "There's an awful lot of people here that come up for two weeks and we can't vote on this and that's wrong." Cottam replied, "You'd have to give up your right to vote in the state where you live to vote here."

In a September 2016 mail-in election, Angel Fire voters approved two separate bond measures totaling $4.5 million.

The funds will be used to start a 20-year master project that Village Finance Manager Bret Wier estimated could total $31.5 million over 20 years. There will be another election in three years to renew the program and issue a further $4.5 million with no new increase in taxes. This pattern of elections will occur every three years until the project is complete. If the voters disapprove at any election point, the program will end and taxes will revert back to current tax levels.

"To really do this and do it right, it's going to take $1.5 to $2 million every year," Wier said prior to the bond election. "For us to spend $2 million a year for the next 20 years, there's no way we could get that out of our budget, even with cuts to police, fire and maybe even closing the community center."

At the Aug. 9 meeting, village officials noted they have been "paying down a bunch of debt fast." Additionally, all GO Bond money is held with the lender, in this case the New Mexico Finance Authority, until it is needed. The funds can only be spent on the uses voters approved and the village is audited by independent auditors to assure that happens.

To learn more about this project, contact Wier at (575) 377-3232 or bwier@angelfirenm.gov.

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