Griego hoping to draw in businesses

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Los Lunas Mayor Charles Griego has been busy his first month in office. Every morning before going to work, he has gone to the village administrative offices to meet with department heads about concerns voters expressed to him on the campaign trail.

One of the desires of the public is for the administration to be more “user friendly,” and the mayor more accessible, Griego said.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Los Lunas Mayor Charles Griego is available during his new office hours from 8:30 to 10 a.m., Monday through Friday.

To this end, the mayor has set up office hours at the administrative building from 8:30 to 10 a.m., Monday through Friday.

One of the concerns expressed is the village spending more money than it has been bringing in, the mayor said.

“That was a concern to the public; that we have our spending in line with our revenues, and that’s something that we’re trying to gear ourselves towards,” Griego said. “I don’t know if we can get it all done this year, or if it takes two years, but we’re working toward that.”

Tightening up the budget will also mean it is going to limit a lot of what the village can do, he said.

Los Lunas’ growth isn’t like what it was in 2006, when 450-plus new homes were built. Since July 2012, only 58 houses have been built in the village.

“The gross receipts that we were receiving on construction was over $2 million a year,” the mayor said. “When that source of revenue went away, that’s basically been the negative impact on our budget.”

Two years ago, village officials adopted a moratorium on impact fees to make it more lucrative for developers in Los Lunas. These fees normally pay for water, waste water and parks. The losses over the past two years from the impact fee moratorium was $210,000. The moratorium is set to expire in July.

The issue will be heard by the village council in May, Griego said, but he thinks it might be more profitable to let it continue, or phase it out only gradually.

“Basically, you have a property that is paying a higher tax rate because it’s an improved piece of property; you have users in your water and sewer system who are paying a revenue to make that system operate,” he said. “I think that’s the important part, and also, hopefully, (it will) create a momentum ― more rooftops in our community that make it more attractive for businesses to come look at our community, be it retail or industrial prospects.”

Improvements in transportation and more houses being built will hopefully help the village attract new businesses and higher-paying manufacturing-type industries for career opportunities, he said.

Earlier this year, village officials met with Merillat representatives, who, according to Griego, said they have been watching housing trends and hopefully will re-open their Los Lunas facility by 2015. The factory closed in mid 2011.

“Merillat is a division of Masco, and they’re huge in building,” Griego said. “They bought quite a few other cabinet manufacturers, but over the years they have gotten rid of a lot of buildings. Merillat kept this facility in New Mexico ― that’s a positive from their point.”

A second Los Lunas exit on Interstate 25 to alleviate traffic on Main Street has been an issue for several years. Shortly after being elected, the mayor and council started looking into TIGER, the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery federal grant program to help with paying for the interstate project. The mayor said it is probably too late to apply this year, but they could apply next year.

“It’s extremely competitive, and I think that’s a problem that we’ll have to have good support and consistency, but we meet the criteria for the grant,” Griego said.

If they can win an award, it could potentially provide 85 percent of the funding for the $72 million project, and the New Mexico Department of Transportation might help provide the 20 percent in required matching funds.

Mayor Griego looks forward to working with county and other municipal officials to make Valencia County a better place.

“We’re not a big county size wise, and as a community, I think we need to be more proactive in working together, realizing that our economies are tied (together),” he said. “So, we need to work together to get projects done that are beneficial to everybody, like a new interchange, or something like that where we work together to get it done.”


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