Belen Eagle Park News-Bulletin file photo

BELEN—The cost of providing services to citizens is a constant, and most small municipalities don’t have the necessary funds to do it all.

The city of Belen has approved its 2022-26 Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan, and will request the Legislature help in funding some necessary projects.

The first priority on the city’s wish list is $1,842,000 for street reconstruction on West Aragon Road. While the city has already begun the planning and engineering work for the project, Belen Mayor Jerah Cordova said they city still needs additional funding for the project.

The project will include not only resurfacing Aragon Road from Main Street to Mesa Road, the city also needs to replace the infrastructure such as water and sewer lines underneath, as well as acquiring property for proper drainage.

The project also includes improvements to Aragon Road west of Mesa Road.

The second priority on the city’s ICIP is community development projects, which is expected to cost $1,238,290, and will be split in two phases.

“It’s an aggregation of several needs we have in the community, primarily to our parks,” Cordova said.

The mayor pointed to improvements needed at Vivian Fields, where Little League baseball is played. New fencing and parking lot improvements are needed.

“We also have significant needs at Eagle Park,” Cordova said. “It’s a big park, and we’re getting new grass soon, but there’s a need for additional upgrades to the community center and skate park.”

The city is also looking for additional funding to improve the Veterans Memorial.

The third project on the city’s ICIP is the north Belen interchange, which the city expects to cost $8,480,000. The city has been looking for ways to provide access to the west side of the interstate for 15 years. The mayor said the project is an economic development investment.

“We’ve had many iterations of this project, and at one time, it was fully funded by the state and the developer, but the developer didn’t come up with their amount of funds,” Cordova said. “We have applied for a couple of federal grants for this project but we’ve been unsuccessful.”

Part of this project includes improvements to the Don Luis Trujillo interchange, which feeds traffic into Cemco and the new housing development. The mayor said funding for this part of the project had been pulled back during the last legislative session due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but is hoping it can be funded this next year.

The most expensive item on the city’s wish list is $13,340,000 for the rehabilitation of the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The city hopes to receive funding in phases over the next four years.

“It’s an old plant. The biggest need is basic maintenance and some improvement to modernize and function to modern code and standards,” the mayor said. “It was built 50-60 years ago, and parts of the plant needs to be modernized.”

A few years ago, the plant was close to capacity, but the city made improvements and implemented conservation efforts by reducing the use, which mitigated that part of the problem.

A study on the wastewater treatment plant was completed about a year and a half ago, which indicated it needs care and maintenance.

The fifth project on the city’s ICIP is wastewater pipeline rehabilitation, which will cost $7,615,000. The city hopes to complete this project in phases over three years.

“There’s always a need for better sewage and drainage,” Cordova said. “Several years ago, we received an environmental order to improve wastewater throughout the city. Many projects throughout the years have been completed, but there is always more to be done.

“Infrastructure is always a challenge and costly, and we rely on the Legislature for funding,” Cordova said.

The remaining projects on the city’s ICIP are:

•Infrastructure improvements (for various) streets: $3,742,000

•Airport sewer line extension: $800,000

•Historic facilities rehabilitation: $242,000

•Westside flood prevention: $1,735,000

•SCADA and GIS asset inventory system: $528,000

•Airport parallel taxiway: $1,500,000

•South Mesa Road improvements: $2,500,000

•Community Center/Eagle Park improvements: $292,000

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Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.