In a vote that goes against the state’s procurement policy, the Chama Village Council voted unanimously at its Dec. 23 regular council meeting to approve a $500 per day, six-month contract extension to Mountain Pacific Meter Tech Service, to maintain operation of the Village’s water plant.

    Village Councilor Ernest Vigil supported the vote over concern for the village’s recent trouble with water quality.

    “In my opinion we must go with the contract, for the protection of the citizens of Chama and anybody passing through,” Vigil said. “I don’t want to go back to the days when we couldn’t even get water.”

    Councilor Matthew Gallegos said health and safety were a priority to him.

    “We are here ultimately for the people,” he said. “We cannot jeopardize life and safety over a potential state procurement violation.”

    Mayor Billy Elbrock said, “If we approve the contract, we’ll visit with the state auditor and have a special meeting.”

    The state procurement policy allows town councils to ratify contracts up to $50,000 without a request for bid. The Mountain Pacific contract to operate the water plant was set to expire Feb 1, 2021 and they were only willing to accept a six-month $90,000 contract extension.

    All of the council, including Village Treasurer Kristina Archuleta and Village Clerk Maggie Valdez, felt there was insufficient time, especially with COVID-19 restrictions and winter conditions to hire a licensed water operator replacement.

    Chama Waste Water class IV operator Donald Thyme said 1.7 million gallons of wastewater were treated and discharged into the Rio Chamita. He also reported that pumps in the wastewater system were failing and replacement costs would run about $8,000.

    He said in the meantime electronic modifications could be made to help smooth electrical surges, shortages and outages until the pumps are replaced.

    Thyme also said nitrates and phosphates continue to be a problem in the wastewater system. Leaks in the Grove Street and Maple Street quadrant are under repair and the recent capital acquisition of a backhoe and skid-steer helped speed the process, including a sewer line extension in mid-town near Northern Rio Arriba Electric Cooperative.

    He also gave a water plant report, on behalf of Nicole Manchin, of Mountain Pacific, who could not make the meeting. Thyme said the water plant was operating well except for one spike in turbidity.

    A number of street lights that have been out for as long as three years will be repaired after Elbrock and Councilor Jolene Jones made a presentation at the recent Co-op meeting. The Village Council approved unanimously a negotiated reconnect fee of $3,000.

    Many of the lights will be LED, a more economical system, night sky compliant and safer for the environment. Councilor Scott Flury tipped his hat to Jones for taking on the re-light project.

    Elbrock reported the cost-comparison analysis from New Mexico Solar Group looked financially beneficial for Chama but would require a 20-year contract to buy solar energy exclusively from the company. The action item to sign the contract was slated for next month’s meeting.

    Vigil reported he received a call from a visitor who stated that the town claims “world class fishing and hunting” yet there is no access in town for the Chama River. Vigil said he intended to meet with various business people, landowners and “throw out some ideas.”

    “To have access to the Chama River, is a project, I believe would really enhance our status as a New Mexico town to visit,” said Vigil.

    Flury said it was a great idea.

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