June 21--LAS CRUCES -- A new East Mesa police and fire station will be constructed, and streets in some Las Cruces neighborhoods will be rebuilt thanks to a nearly $20 million, online auction-like sale that will happen next week at Las Cruces City Hall.
City officials plan to sell bonds -- a way of borrowing money -- to pay for a series of projects across the city. These bonds, unlike some types, don't require a tax increase, but will be repaid using revenues the city already gets, according to officials.
The upcoming sale will pay for the following:
--$10 million for an East Mesa public safety complex.
--$8 million for 20 street projects, most of which will be rebuilds.
--$1.5 million for utilities, only about one-fifth of which is new debt, while the rest is refinancing of older debt.
"We're going to be phasing these projects over the next three years with that money," said city Public Works Director Loretta Reyes. "With these bonds, we do have to spend the money within the next three years."
Public safety campus
City officials in recent years have eyed a 350-acre site northeast of the intersection of Lohman Avenue and Sonoma Ranch Boulevard for a new facility to house fire and police substations. It's expected to reduce response times in the area.
A walking trail and recreation area also are slated for the part of the acreage.
Tuesday's bond sale will provide $10 million toward the more than $13 million needed for the project, according to city documents. Also, another $400,000 from the streets portion of the bond sale will be used for road construction tied to the proposed public safety building.
At least part of the city's hurdle until now has been in arranging for a lease of the parcel, which is owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. City officials estimate the lease could be granted in September.
The first construction, installing a fiber optic cable at the site, could start in August, according to city documents.
Meanwhile, construction on the whole campus project could begin in January 2015 and wrap up in January 2016, according to city documents.
City councilors are set to hear an update about the proposal 1 p.m. Monday at a council work session.
The $8 million for city streets will pay for rebuilding segments of 6th Street, El Prado Avenue, Lees Drive and Melendres Avenue, among others, according to Reyes.
"We're talking new asphalt, curb and gutter, new sidewalks," she said. "It's a full reconstruction of the roadway."
The routes were singled out via the Pavement Management System, a way the city assesses street conditions and catalogues them for repairs.
Reyes said the streets are ones that needed underground utility work, which also will be done at the same time.
Garza said that utility work will be paid for with the new utilities debt that will stem from the sale of the Tuesday's bonds.
In addition to street repaving, a temporary stoplight at the intersection of Golf Club Drive and Roadrunner Parkway -- a main entrance into Sonoma Ranch neighborhoods -- will be replaced by a permanent traffic signal.
City Manager Robert Garza said the city typically gets about $4 million in bond money every year for streets. But this year, the city is doubling the amount of debt it's taking out and will forego taking out bonds next year.
Reyes said that will give her department some advantages.
"We know how much we have, and we know the period of time we have to spend it in," she said. "We can better plan."
Also slated with the bond money is the widening of a portion of Elks Road that's just south of a relatively new underpass the city built for East Engler Road to pass under Interstate 25. At that section, the road narrows abruptly from four lanes to two lanes and widens back to four lanes. City officials have said previously it poses a safety hazard and plan to widen it to four lanes between Hatfield Road and Reina Drive. In March, city councilors voted to seek a pool of state funding for the project, as well.
Separate from the bond proceeds, the city spends about $6 million each year from its street maintenance budget on projects -- something that's also set to happen in the financial year that begins July 1.
In addition, the city will get about $7 million in capital outlay dollars from the state Legislature in 2014-15.
It will be a level of spending on projects the city hasn't seen in "quite a while," Garza said, which is a plus in the current "strained" economy.
"You're going to put a lot of people to work," he said.
Tuesday morning, officials will gather at city hall to open up the bidding process on the city's bond package.
Investors will then compete by submitting the interest rate they're willing to receive for loaning the money to the city. The lower the rate, the less money the city will have to repay over the lifetime of the bonds. At 11 a.m., the bidding stops.
"Obviously, we're wanting the lowest possible interest rate we can get," Garza said.
Garza said the current climate is favorable for the city to get a low interest rate.
Then, at 1 p.m. the same day, a special city council meeting will be held to approve the sale.
Also at that meeting, city councilors will consider extending a drought proclamation they passed in recent weeks, which puts place-of-use restrictions on where legal fireworks can be lit. Fire officials previously have said it would have to be extended to carry through the Fourth of July because the first version has an automatic expiration after a certain number of days.
$8 million projects
Proposed $8 million spending on street projects
1. Full reconstruction, which includes new asphalt, sidewalks, curbs and gutters:
6th Street: Parker Road to Palmer Road
Bex Street: Farney Lane to Desert Rose Court
Boston Drive: Montana Avenue to Missouri Avenue
Calle del Sol: Brown Road to Avenida Blanco
Camino Coyote: Portion of road in front of the proposed East Mesa Public Safety Complex
Crescent Drive: Farney Lane to Apollo Drive
El Prado Avenue: Brown Road to Melendres Street
Hadley Avenue: Water Street to Armijo Street
Lavender Drive: Elks Drive to Sandhill Arroyo
Lees Drive: Idaho Avenue to Montana Avenue
Melendres Street: Hadley Avenue to Las Cruces Avenue
Pettes Boulevard: Mesa Drive to Stewards Drive
Pinon Avenue: Mesquite Street to Almendra Street
Willow Street: San Juan Avenue to Las Cruces Arroyo
2. Tied into New Mexico Department of Transportation'sMissouri Avenue bridge overhaul:
Missouri Avenue/Triviz Drive/Don Roser Drive improvements: New traffic signals, additional turning lanes, raised center medians for safety, new Americans with Disabilities Act curb ramps, new sidewalks and the realignment of the Triviz Drive multi-use trail
3. Widening project:
Elks Drive: Widen Reina Drive to Hatfield Road; install two new travel lanes, medians, curb, gutters, sidewalks, drainage system and lighting
4. Continue construction
Sonoma Ranch Boulevard: build asphalt, sidewalk, curb and gutter from S. Fork Road to Camino Coyote
5. New traffic signal:
Golf Club Road-Roadrunner Parkway: temporary traffic signal to be replaced with permanent signal; modifications to medians
6. Design only
Church Street and Water Street: Create design plans for conversion to two-way routes
Source: City of Las Cruces Public Works Department
Diana Alba Soular may be reached at 575-541-5443.
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