The city of Las Cruces is taking steps to join the national Certified Local Government Program, enabling the city to expand on current historic preservation efforts. City Historic Preservation Specialist Troy Ainsworth says the city’s certification will have to get both state and federal approval.
“What a CLG is, is a municipal political entity that engages in historic preservation efforts, and its program has been certified by the state and by the Department of the Interior,” Ainsworth said. “That dates back to 1966, with the introduction of the National Historic Preservation Act itself, which expanded federal involvement in nationwide preservation activity.”
If Las Cruces is certified, it will become the tenth local government within New Mexico to participate in the program, joining cities like Albuquerque, Deming and Santa Fe.
A key program benefit is access to special grant funding, known as CLG grants, exclusively available to program participants. According to Ainsworth, over $88,000 in grant funding was made available to New Mexico program participants in 2020.
“These funds are dedicated exclusively for certified local governments,” Ainsworth said. “So, if you are a grant writer, what this means is rather than having almost an unlimited pool of applicants, for a CLG grant it would be limited only to the nine or perhaps ten CLGs statewide.”
Councilor Gabe Vasquez voiced his support for the program, indicating he wants the city to further develop a system for equitable decision-making that takes community input on preservation projects into consideration.
“I fully support this. I don’t see why we shouldn’t do this. It's another avenue for us to get funding in the door for historic preservation programs,” Vasquez said. “Oftentimes we have different projects that we select and ask for support for, but it would be great to also solicit the input of the community before those projects are even put on a list for them to choose from. So, I think that's an important part of this process moving forward.”
Ainsworth outlined how the city could handle project prioritization, stressing the city should review needs annually.
“It would be easy to put together a list of eligible projects,” Ainsworth said. “That can be brick and mortar. Think about city-owned buildings such as the Rio Grande Theater…the whole purpose would be public outreach, brick and mortar, education and, in my view, what would be crucial is to have a pool of proposals ready to go each year.”
Other program benefits include local technical assistance training through the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division and the ability to participate in the nomination process of proposed properties for the National Register of Historic Places within the city’s jurisdiction.
Program requirements involve establishing a qualified historic preservation review commission, enforcing legislation that designates and protects historic properties, providing for public participation and maintaining a system for the inventory and surveying of historic properties—all requirements that the city of Las Cruces currently meets.
If accepted into the program, the city of Las Cruces will also be required to prepare an annual report to be submitted to the state of New Mexico.
Ainsworth says city staff will move quickly to put together the application packet and will provide Mayor Ken Miyagishima with the needed documents for his approval.
“For the next steps, Community Development Department staff and the Historic Preservation Commission will continue ongoing preservation efforts,” Ainsworth said. “Staff is prepared to draft a letter in support of the application. And lastly, staff is prepared to accept the responsibilities of maintaining its status as a CLG in the state of New Mexico.”