During a work session Monday, the Las Cruces City Council assessed project priorities for the upcoming year.
Las Cruces Public Works and Budget presented approximately 45 million dollars worth of potential projects to the council. While the exact amount of allocated funds for fiscal priorities could not be given, Mayor Ken Miyagishima made it clear that the projects will need to be narrowed down in a future March work session.
“I would venture to say that we have more than just a few million dollars to spend...I mean it's just that simple. We don’t run that much money, I mean to cover a fraction of this stuff,” Miyagishima said. “I mean these are really some pie in the sky numbers here, and that's some big stuff…I just have to tell council just be prepared because this list is going to be a fraction.”
In total, 26 priorities were presented to the city council. Priorities popular among the majority of council members include the addition of a mobile crisis unit to help with behavioral health needs and the installation of WiFi in select city parks. Councilor Tessa Abeyta-Stuve stressed the need for the city to focus on projects with the highest public visibility.
“Cities are judged on roads, parks and litter,” Abeyta-Stuve said. “And those three items can make or break a city, just on visual appeal. So, I think pavement management is a big component of that, and I'd definitely like to see that funded to its full potential.”
Many members of the council touched on the need to invest in road improvements. The proposed project request would allocate 3 million dollars to address streets in the most disrepair. Currently, the city uses a pavement management system to prioritize new projects, something Councilor Kasandra Gandara says needs to be reexamined.
“I’m really happy that we have the pavement management program, but I think about certain streets in my district that are being updated and I think, ‘Oh my goodness, there's worse conditions,’” Gandara said. “I know what the need is. I travel all over the city. I want to reevaluate that pavement management program because I'm not sure that it's working to the benefit of our poor communities.”
City Public Works Director David Sedillo says roads are prioritized based on the ability to cover not only pavement improvements, but also the infrastructure beneath the roadway.
“One thing we don't want to do is go and replace and spend all this money on improving the roadway, and then come back a few years later, just to tear it up and improve say the water, sewer, gas,” Sedillo said. “We'd like to do those all at one time. So that's how we try to balance and when you say, you know, ‘Well this street looked worse,’ it possibly could be. But we can't do those improvements until we have the full reconstruction amount.”
One of the biggest proposed projects is improvements to the Amador Hotel, estimated to cost between 5 and 8 million dollars. Members of the city council were in agreement that other projects, such as road improvements, were likely to take priority. Councilor Johana Bencomo emphasized that the projects approved would be a direct reflection of the council itself.
“Not that our budget doesn't do good things, right, but like budgets are moral documents,” Bencomo said. “They're telling our community this is what we care about. This is what we want to invest in. This is our vision for the city, and I feel like some of these items are urgent.”