U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) visited Belen Tuesday and took a glimpse at the progress of a number of community improvement projects that have received a boost from federal funding he helped secure.
Bingaman’s first stop was the newly-renovated recreation center on South Main Street. The renovations were partly funded through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.
During his tour of the recreation center, Bingaman spoke with Mayor Ronnie Torres and City Councilors David Lopez, Terese Ulivarri, Jeff Trembly and Rudy Jaramillo about the improvements to the building.
The senator’s tour continued to the future home of the Belen Community Center at the multi-purpose park, north of the high school. Bingaman helped secure more than $1 million for the project and obtained $231,000 in the fiscal year 2000 Veterans Affairs-Housing and Urban Develop-ment (VA-HUD) Appropriations Bill to begin initial design and construction of the building.
Bingaman also said he secured $997,000 in the FY 2001 VA-HUD spending bill to continue development of the project.
“This center will be a great addition to the community for the people of Belen,” Bingaman said. “It will provide a public space where residents of all ages can come together with neighbors to relax or gain new skills through educational activities that will be provided here.”
The new center, which is currently in the design stage, will be located next to the Belen recreational park, which has softball and soccer fields, outdoor tennis and basketball courts and a running track. When the building is complete, it is expected to house after-school programs, fine arts and dance courses, fitness classes, community and senior programs and weekend teen activities.
City officials also showed Bingaman the progress on a major water and wastewater infrastructure project under way at Perizitte, West Chavez Avenue and Jude Court.
With more than $1 million provided through a federal program supported by Bingaman, the City of Belen, in partnership with the Army Corp of Engineers, has installed water and sewer lines along those streets. Funds are also being used to make storm drainage improvements on the streets.
“With the tremendous growth in central New Mexico, water infrastructure improvements remain a critical need. I’m pleased the federal government is picking up part of the tab to get some of this infrastructure in place,” Bingaman said. “I’m also glad the community of Belen has benefited from this funding and is moving quickly to complete this project.”
The federal government contributed $645,000 towards the Perizitte Street-West Chavez Avenue project and another $397,000 for the Jude Court project. Belen provided 25 percent of the total cost of the projects.
The federal funds for the project came from $3 million earmarked in the 2001 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill supported by Bingaman that set aside money for such improvements in Bernalillo, Sandoval and Valencia counties. The senator also secured $1.5 million in 2000 and $900,000 this year in the VA-HUD spending bill for improvements to the community’s wastewater treatment plant. He is currently seeking an additional $4 million to continue that work.
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.