Belen City Council rejects proposed property exchange

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Belen city councilors disapproved a property exchange request between the city and a Belen resident that would've reduced the community garden, El Corazon de Belen Garden Park, down to a third of its size.

However, acquiring the property could have offered the Belen Fire Department a chance to expand its fire station in the future.

Councilors unanimously voted no on the property exchange earlier this month.

Fernando Chavez approached Mayor Rudy Jaramillo in March about exchanging his property along South Sixth Street and West Castillo Avenue "foot per foot" with the city's property along Dalies Avenue and North Sixth Street.

Chavez owns the property next to the community garden and wanted to expand his property for future use, but didn't give the city specifics.

Chavez's property is located south of the Belen Fire Department, which Jaramillo said the city tried to purchase in the past, but couldn't negotiate a selling price.

"It would benefit the city if they had a little more property here and I would have more on their side," Chavez said at a March 19 council meeting.

Belen Fire Chief Manny Garcia said not owning the corner property has handicapped the fire department in their efforts to expand or build a new fire station.

Councilors named the property Chavez was looking to exchange as the community garden in September.

Dubra Karnes-Padilla, the community garden's chairwoman, said the group has been working for more than a year to create a place where community members can grow food by using sustainable techniques.

The project is also waiting to hear the results from a $10,000 grant application with the New Mexico Centennial Garden Program to develop the area.

"This piece of land was chosen as a community garden, because it's visible in our community," Karnes-Padilla said. "It's in the Heart of Belen and that area needs some beautification."

The community garden is in a prime location for students attending Belen Middle School, Central Elementary School and H.T. Jaramillo Community School to walk to, said Bob White, a member of the community gardens.

If the garden was located any farther, the project would have to search for transportation funds to shuttle students to and from the garden.

In other business, the council:

• Approved a resolution to omit the annual 5 percent utilities rate increase scheduled to be applied in July. Since the water, sewer and solid waste ordinance was amended in February to increase utility rates for March, city officials thought two increases in one year would be too burdensome on residents.

• Approved a draft joint powers agreement between the city and Valencia County concerning the proposed county hospital to be placed on 14 acres of city-owned property along Christopher Road.

• Approved to place $500,000, received from water rights sales connected to Rancho Cielo, into a six-month CD, or certificate of deposit, with an interest rate of .30.

The total received from the water rights was $1,229,301, of which $729,301 will be used as matching funds in upcoming projects, said Roseann Peralta, the city's finance clerk.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.