What's going on with Angel Fire's roads, water system?

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Angel Fire homeowner Ray Honea asked a pointed question during the recent July 10 Angel Fire Village Council meeting: "Why are the roads so bad? I know there's been improvements. I've seen improvements. At the same time, there's chuck holes that you literally bottom out on … I just want to stress that it's the number-one topic out there."

Water (quality, pressure and outages) was number two, Honea said, before suggesting, "Have a public meeting as if you're going to pass another bond because we're really at the midway point of that bond. What about the bond improvements?"

Council went on to answer at least part of Honea's question by approving a task order that will seek bids for construction. According to the background provided in the meeting's packet, The Village Core Area Roadway and Utilities … "design is complete and ready to be advertised."

Council is postponing its next regular July meeting to July 30 at 5:30 p.m. in the hopes that a winning bid and contract can be approved at that time.

According to project manager Amos Torres, Water & Sewer Superintendent for the village, "Any project that gets started will have to be finished this year."

Last August, council approved the Core Area Planning Study of Roadway and Utilities by HDR Engineering. During that meeting, Project Manager Carl Abrams with HDR said the plan prioritizes roads based on safety, traffic usage and the conditions of the roads as well as water and sewer lines.

Village officials were optimistic construction could begin by spring this year; however, Torres told The Chronicle in a telephone interview. "It just takes a lot of time to do the planning and [detailed] design. There's a lot that goes into it. It takes a lot of coordination, trying to determine rights-of-ways, doing research at the county, geotechnical data gathering … There's some areas where the road has to shift a little bit."

According to to the engineer's study approved last August, the initial $4,345,801 project includes the following village streets:

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;

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.

Torres said the current plan is essentially the same with the small addition of Mammoth Road between Vail and Jackson Hole.

Torres took another of Ray Honea's suggestion to heart, noting, "I talked to the engineers yesterday. I suggested that we have a public meeting sometime in early August. That would explain everything."

Additionally, Torres said, "We did have a meeting yesterday with potential contractors. Sounds like they're ready to hit the ground running."

Though, Torres added, before paving can take place, there will be "a lot of surveying. That's the first step" and utility companies like Century Link and Kit Carson Electric will have to move their boxes in some places.

"The ball is rolling," Torres said. "It's just not as quickly as everyone would like."

Also at the July 10 meeting, council:

Approved a Contract and Engagement Letter with the accounting firm Pattillo, Brown & Hill, L.L.P. to compile village financial statements for this FY2018.

Approved fourth quarter budget adjustments to the 2017-2018 fiscal budget. According to a staff report provided in the meeting's packet, "These changes are the result of unanticipated and un-budgeted revenues and expenses that the Village has encountered in fourth quarter of the year as well as a [Budget Adjustment Request] requested by [New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration] to reflect the combining of funds 504 & 525 into fund 502 … Several of the requested changes are due to emergency situations and the [money has already been spent]."

Approved a Resolution to write off uncollectible utility, water rights and solid waste fees. "State statute, municipal code and appellate court cases have established that utility billings in excess of 4 years old are not legally collectible by a municipality," according to a report in the packet. "This write-off will occur over the next year and each write-off will be presented to the council for approval in accordance with Section 3-37-7 of the New Mexico Municipal Code. This will not negatively impact our balance sheet as we have been accumulating a bad-debt reserve in anticipation of not being able to collect these billings.

Because of the reserve, Village Finance Manager Bret Weir told council, "The bottom line numbers are going to be essentially the same."

Asked how the $1 million in uncollectible bills occurred, Weir replied, "Less than one percent is [because of changing] ownership. The majority of them are people who we know they own the property, they're just not paying their bills."

Most of the properties in question are unimproved lots. The village has the authority to place a lien on such property, Weir said, but "It has not been financially beneficial to foreclose on these properties."

Bond targets streets, water and wastewater construction/repairs

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

• $3 million for municipal street construction/repairs; and

• $1.5 million for water and wastewater construction/repairs.

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. The bond is put out to voters every three years to decide if they wil to renew the program and continue with no new increase in taxes. This pattern of elections will occur every 3 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.

According to a bond election brochure, "virtually all" 120 miles of village roads "are in need of maintenance and many need to be rebuilt. Forty years of erosion and blading have taken a significant toll on the roads leaving them full of potholes and unsound." At the same time, "much of the water and wastewater systems have exceeded their useful lives."

To learn more about this project, contact Bret Wier, Finance Manager for the Village of Angel Fire: (575) 377-3232 or bwier@angelfirenm.gov.

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