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Notes from the Mayor

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    by Jerah R. Cordova

    In 2016, the City of Belen saw millions of dollars in projects that benefits our city economically.

    Not only did we build a new Main Street overpass to help BNSF expand, but we also built a new runway at Belen Alexander Airport to bring United States Air Force training operations to Belen. There were lots of other projects, too. Big road projects and small ones. Big park improvements and small ones. We opened a business center. We had a successful Bugg Lights display, and while Anna Becker Park still isn't as decorative as it was in the 1990s, we got some reindeer shining bright there this year. The list goes on.

    2017 will be better. First, we're creating businesses and jobs through the entrepreneurship of local innovators who are starting and expanding businesses. We also have companies coming from far and wide to Belen because of the strength in our transportation infrastructure -- roads, rail and the airport. Sure, growth has been slow -- and yes, we have a lot to make up for. Belen slid from being Valencia County's biggest and best to second best over the past two decades. But the slide has stopped, and we're starting to catch up.

    What do we have to look forward to? In a few broad strokes:

    • Several major road projects in areas of town that have been neglected for decades, including Martha Jean, San Lorenzo, La Luz, Campana and East Ross.
    • Several major business announcements. As they caution me, let's not get ahead of ourselves or get too excited. But we need to be excited by the progress that's in the works, from the renovation of F&E Plaza tied closely to the expansion of two local businesses to some closely held major business prospects I can't yet give details about.
    • A continuation of our maintenance improvements. Three years ago I set us toward beautifying the city. We've had some very determined successes and a few tough sites we're still working to improve. We'll get there.

    In the coming few months, I hope to release a detailed plan for Belen to explain my vision for how Belen can fix many of its problems. After three years in office, I've learned a lot about how this town works -- and where it doesn't work. We'll work together -- as mayor and council -- to get the job done.

    by Jerah R. Cordova

    Belen has among the richest of New Mexico traditions. This weekend as we celebrate the Our Lady of Belen Fiestas, as we have for well over 200 years, keep in mind that Belen is made special because of its 275 years of sometimes wild and always very western past. We're a community of culture and history.

    The fiestas are just one part of the compelling Belen history we get to live.

    We have stories of poker games waged over property disputes, where the winner took home a prime piece of land that later became Buckland Bros. Pharmacy. We have a downtown railroad district punctuated by the Harvey House Museum. We have the historic Anna Becker Park. And we have plenty to tell about the people who were born here -- actress Gloria Castillo, musician Bobby Keys, boxer Art Aragon and others, including those we cherish as our neighbors -- and even the actors who have come here of the years, including that time Arnold Schwarzenegger jumped off the roof of the historic Central Hotel, falling through the awning of the old Eva's Grocery. (Thankfully for him, it was just a Hollywood stunt for The Last Stand.)

    When I think of Belen a lot of great stories come to mind. These stories are gifted to us by our strong culture, and we're fortunate to live in a such a cultural place, a place that can't be called Anytown, USA. We're unique and we're proud of it.

    by Jerah R. Cordova

    Belen has completed more than $21 million in infrastructure projects in just over two years. That's an incredible amount for our small city, and it more than shows how seriously the city takes the need to improve our city and its infrastructure. It's a long list:

    • $9.5 million to build a new North Main Street overpass to support the Belen rail yard
    • $5.5 million for a second airport runway to support aviation business development
    • $1 million for new Main Street paving
    • $1 million to build flood protection ponding on Camino del Llano
    • $1 million for a new Eagle water tank, providing water to Belen that had been out of service for nearly a decade
    • $700,000 to expand of our wastewater treatment plant to accommodate higher volumes
    • $670,000 for an airport fuel station to support aviation
    • $440,000 for Eagle Park improvements
    • $405,000 for Vivian Fields improvements
    • $200,000 for new Orchard Road paving
    • $200,000 for new Christopher Road drainage and paving
    • $200,000 for park improvements at all city parks
    • $150,000 for new Old River Road and Wisconsin Avenue paving and sewer line
    • $150,000 for additional paved parking at the Belen Senior Center to alleviate the lack of parking
    • $100,000 to purchase and install computer notebooks in all police vehicles, which has increased time spent patrolling
    • $75,000 for new Perizzite Avenue paving
    • $75,000 for new flood control drains on Mesa Road
    • $70,000 for new East Ross Avenue paving
    • $60,000 to revamp the old Belen Armory into the Belen Business Center
    • $50,000 for new Esperanza Avenue paving
    • $50,000 for planning and design for flood control on Barboa/Gabaldon Place

    I could go on because there's been a lot more than this -- tons of smaller projects totaling into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and projects accomplished by Belen Consolidated Schools in the many millions of dollars.

    And Belen has more projects on the way:

    • $3.7 million for a new main fire station
    • $1.5 million for citywide sidewalk improvements that have been desperately needed
    • $1.3 million for electronic water meters to bring our meters into the 21st century
    • $980,000 for new Martha Jean water and sewer lines and paving
    • $950,000 to bring a city water well back online after years of running dry
    • $800,000 for a new sewer line to support Dennis Chavez Elementary School, businesses and residents
    • $700,000 for new La Luz and San Lorenzo paving
    • $400,000 for additional Vivian Fields improvements
    • $150,000 for Eagle Lane paving
    • $130,000 for Camino del Llano interchange improvements
    • $70,000 for a veterans memorial at Eagle Park
    • $15,000 to repaint the Harvey House

    This list will continue to grow. For example, West Aragon Road is slated to begin seeing improvements in 2017, with a full overhaul completed by 2021. That money -- more than $2 million -- is now appropriated thanks to the city's ongoing collaboration with the state.

    Some people like to grumble incessantly on social media about Belen, putting down their own city in ugly terms. Frankly, I find it sad. But the one thing they can't claim -- unless they claim it falsely -- is that nothing is getting done, because big and meaningful projects are getting done and setting Belen on a path toward a stronger future.

    The fact that Belen can accomplish such big projects while maintaining a stable city budget with a consistent surplus is evidence of Belen's vitality. Our city has accomplished so much in such a short period of time. The improvements will keep coming.

    by Jerah R. Cordova

    Infrastructure is the foundation of a community on which we can build a stronger economy -- those things like roads, sidewalks, water lines, sewer lines, water tanks, airport runways and public facilities.

    In 2015, the City of Belen brought together partners in federal and state government to help pay to construct a new crosswind runway at Belen Alexander Municipal Airport. It was a project to build a better airport, with a stronger runway that we knew could open up the opportunity for more aviation activity in Belen. This investment in new infrastructure led the United States Air Force to commit to use our airport for specialized training operations during the next 10 years, which in turn will bring the city $15 million.

    This is a prime example of how infrastructure can help us build a stronger economy.