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City, others lose state money

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By David Giuliani

Local agencies are poised to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars for various projects as the state seeks to balance its budget.

Both houses of the state Legislature, with the support of all area lawmakers, backed a bill to take away money for projects in which legislative funding hadn’t been spent.

The governor has yet to sign the bill.

For the city of Las Vegas, money likely lost includes $280,000 for water system improvements, $500,000 for a diversion dam on the Gallinas River, $186,000 for a roof replacement at the police station, and $83,000 for municipal courthouse improvements.

In San Miguel County, $594,000 was lost for the renovation of the old Ribera school. Gov. Bill Richardson helped get that money a few years ago at the insistence of national radio talk show host Don Imus, who has a ranch in the Valley.

At last week’s City Council meeting, Alex Aragon, a watchdog over city government, criticized the city for not spending the money it gets from the state Legislature for capital projects.

He presented a document that showed the city was losing $1.3 million.

“When we go to ask for bucks, we should have a plan,” Aragon told the City Council during the public input portion of its meeting. “We shouldn’t be waiting two or three years to spend the money.”

He also chided the council for not spending any of the $40,000 for Romero Street, which was given to the city three years ago. Aragon, who lives in another part of town, said the city could have spent the money for at least a sidewalk on that street.

“Put something there for the people,” he said.

City Manager Timothy Dodge said the city has salvaged a significant amount of money, but he said he saw Aragon’s point. He said the city should narrow its focus when it’s seeking state money.

Dodge started with the city last March, so he wasn’t around when the money likely to be lost was sought.