The City of Española was granted in December 2020 an emergency restraining order against Kelly Cook Armstrong after Armstrong threatened to block City access to the sewage lift station next to Santa Clara Bridge. The city must use an easement through her property, called Levee Service Road, to access the lift station.
According to court documents, Armstrong, who owns several pieces of property in the city along with the Cook Home Center business, contacted Public Works Director Steven Trujillo on Dec. 9 and claimed that the city vandalized the locks on the gate to her property. She threatened to prevent access to the lift station by installing a concrete jersey barrier across the access road.
Armstrong did not return calls seeking comment.
The lift station is a critical piece of the city’s wastewater infrastructure. Raw sewage from the city’s west side flows to the lift station, where it is pumped up a pipe under the Santa Clara Bridge that carries it to the Wastewater Treatment Plant on the direct opposite bank of the Rio Grande.
City wastewater staff inspect the station and perform maintenance usually about once a day. If the station were to critically fail, sewage would overflow into the Rio Grande, resulting in an ecological disaster for the riparian flora and fauna besides potentially poisoning the drinking water for down-river communities, such as the pueblos of Santa Clara and San Ildefonso and the cities of Santa Fe and Albuquerque, among others.
Trujillo said when he confronted Armstrong with the possibility of such a disaster if she continued to prevent city access, Armstrong replied that it was “not my problem.”
“Ms. Armstrong has adamantly refused to work with the city in any fashion and, instead, indicated that she would be taking the self-help measure of barricading or blockading the city’s access easement to its critical wastewater infrastructure, the wastewater lift station,” a court motion filed by the city states.
The temporary restraining order was served to Armstrong on Dec. 14 and renewed indefinitely on Dec. 22 until the case could be determined fully on its merits. That hearing is set for May 24 in Tierra Amarilla before First District Court Judge Jason Lidyard.
The city regularly purchases maintenance and building supplies from Armstrong’s business, often spending $1,000 or more each month.