Millions of dollars in federal funding may be on the way for Los Lunas and Peralta after U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury announced her submissions for the 2024 congressional community funded projects.
The submission list includes 15 projects that amount to $53.1 million dollars. Should the budget be approved, the village of Los Lunas could receive $2.7 million dollars to spend on the Los Lunas Corridor Water Lines project to help connect and expand water utilities into rural areas in Valencia County that do not currently have these services.
According to Michael Jaramillo, the public works director for the village of Los Lunas, they would be expanding water and sewer utilities into the Edeal Dairy area through this project. The water and sewer lines will begin west by the Los Lunas Wastewater Treatment Plant, then will go over the river to the east side.
Construction on the water and sewer lines would be done in conjunction with the upcoming I-25 corridor and bridge project as the lines would be tied underneath the bridge.
Jaramillo said building these two at the same time would be the most cost efficient route.
“Construction costs continue to rise since COVID and we have not seen any stabilization,” Jaramillo said. “In addition, we are currently working on the required Environmental Assessment for the new river bridge. Rules, regulations, and requirements change from year to year making it more challenging to obtain an EA later rather than today.”
Jaramillo said this water and sewer expansion project is important because it will support current and future development within the village by expanding access to clean drinking water.
“A lot of people have wells and may be happy with them, but if you’re going to be building subdivisions or any kind of commercial development they don’t like to build on well systems as it makes them responsible for the quality of the water,” he said.
The expansion of the village’s sewer system is also a priority, Jaramillo said, as it’s their goal to eliminate septic tanks because they tend to break down and when that happens, it can lead to groundwater contamination. It can also help residents save money, he said.
“If the septic tank breaks, people will have the ability to say, ‘instead of paying $5,000 dollars to upgrade my septic system, I’ll just connect to the village system and I don’t have to worry about septic in the future,’” said Jaramillo.
The Los Lunas Corridor Water Lines project also makes future expansion on that side of the river possible.
“I’m working on an EDA (Economic Development Administration) grant to hopefully extend the water and sewer from where this fund would end and continue it hopefully all the way to Highway 47,” Jaramillo said.
“I’m excited to say if we get it awarded, I’m going to be very thankful because it’s definitely needed,” he said. “The village is making a commitment to quality of life projects and utilities are part of that.”
The town of Peralta is also looking forward to almost $8 million dollars in funding for a new fire station, should the federal budget be approved.
The current fire station, built in the 1970s, is long overdue for an update as it lacks a lot of basic necessities and space for the growing department, said Peralta Fire Chief Jeremy Fiedler.
“We’re bursting at the seams right now,” Fiedler said. “We’re having to double up locker space. Right now, we don’t even have room for a washing machine to wash our gear. We have to send that stuff out and pay for it to be done by an outside company.
“There’s no room inside for maintaining and cleaning the trucks or gear,” he continued. “We have to do that all outside on the pad.”
“The list of inadequacies goes on and on,” said Peralta Mayor Bryan Olguin. “Our fire department has overcome those obstacles and have done a great job in doing so, but bringing it up to modern times is going to really help the morale and have a positive effect on the rest of Valencia County.”
One exciting addition planned for the new station with a lot of far-reaching potential is a helipad, which Olguin said will be a first for any fire station in Valencia County.
“During emergencies like bosque fires and things like that, helicopters will be able to use that area for refueling and refilling for water,” Fiedler said.
Olguin said this will be a big benefit to emergency medical services which they hope to have up and running by the time the new station is built. The new fire station will also allow them to get larger trucks with more water carrying capabilities and pumping capacity, Fiedler said.
“Right now, half of our current station is too short to fit any of the newer trucks. We have three older trucks on that side because height wise, they are the only ones that can fit in there,” he said.
Fiedler said the new station will also allow them to have more community involvement functions as the new building will have more training facilities and meeting rooms that the public can utilize. Fiedler said it can also serve as an evacuation point for Peralta Elementary should they need it since the new station will be right across the street on N.M. 47.
Molzen Corbin, an Albuquerque-based engineering and architecture firm, has completed an initial design of the new fire station. Olguin says the new station will be significantly bigger, “probably five times larger than our current station.”
“The new fire station will allow us to fit everyone and everything in,” Fiedler said. “I’m happy, as the new chief, that I’m able to be a part of (the new station) and help facilitate it. Once built, we hope to be up in the 20s personnel wise with EMS integrated. It will allow us to have spaces to sleep, eat, hangout, train and run shifts comfortably, which we don’t have at all right now.”
“It’s an honor to be put on that list,” Olguin said. “It’s been a long time coming for the town of Peralta.”
According to the press release, once projects are approved in the House and Senate appropriations committees and included in the federal budget, they will be subject to passage of the budget in both Chambers of Congress before being signed into law. This process will likely take months, with the earliest final consideration of bills taking place in the fall.
“The projects I selected this cycle are to address urgent community needs across our district, including tackling public safety, housing, education, public health and economic development needs,” Stansbury wrote in a press release. “These projects will invest in rural, Tribal, and metro-area communities across our district and help tackle some of our biggest challenges.”
Felina Martinez was born and raised in Valencia County. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2021. During her time at UNM, she studied interdisciplinary film, digital media and journalism. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, the School of Dreams Academy and the town of Peralta.