Doña Ana County



February 19, 2010

Before adjourning Thursday, the New Mexico Legislature passed the Colonias Infrastructure Act, which is now headed to the desk of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson for consideration. The act, co-sponsored by Doña Ana County's legislators, will assure permanent funding of $10 million annually from the state’s severance-tax bonding capacity, all of which will then be dedicated to colonias infrastructure projects.

On Saturday, Feb. 20, at 12:15 p.m., colonias residents and area legislators will gather at the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum east of Las Cruces to rally for quick action by Richardson to sign the legislation.

In attendance will be Senators Mary Kay Papen, Mary Jane Garcia, Cynthia Nava and Steve Fischmann, along with Representatives Andy Nunez, Joseph Cervantes, Nate Cote, David Steinborn, Mary Helen Garcia, Joni Gutierrez, Antonio Lujan and Andy Nuñez.

District 1 Doña Ana County Commissioner Oscar Vásquez Butler, who also will be in attendance, said the act is the culmination of a dream for him.

"In 2003," Butler said, "I asked my fellow commissioners Gilbert T. Apodaca, D. Kent Evans, Arturo C. Terrazas and Paul B. Curry to make improvements to our colonias a cornerstone of our work as public servants. They agreed unanimously, and every commissioner since then has endorsed what became known as the Doña Ana County Colonias Initiative. This legislation at the state level underscores the importance of the work we began, and I could not be prouder than I am right now to see this day come."

The legislation on the governor's desk will address the lack of water, wastewater services, flood control structures, passable roads and other essential infrastructure needed in New Mexico's colonias located within 150 miles of the U.S./Mexico border.

Doña Ana County is home to 37 colonias that will benefit from the legislation if it becomes law.

The legislative delegation will answer any questions regarding the bill in particular or the legislative session in general during the Feb. 20 event. Simultaneously, community leaders active in colonias development efforts will rally with colonias residents, volunteers and elected leaders to encourage Gov. Richardson to act quickly, and to explain the specifics of the act, the Colonias Project Fund, and the organization that will be established if the legislation is signed into law.

"I am proud of my fellow legislators from Doña Ana County, my co-sponsor Sen. Howie Morales, D.-Silver City, as well as the other legislators, our colonias community leaders and the Native American leaders who supported the passage of the bill," Papen said. "I'd also like to give special recognition to Annette Morales from Medius Inc., and Olga Morales from Rural Communities' Assistance Corporation, both of whom shepherded this bill through to passage."

Cervantes also praised the process and the Doña Ana County Colonias Initiative, which has, since 2003, laid the framework through which the 2010 legislation was made possible.

"Although Gov. Richardson has made large investments to improve colonias infrastructure in the past eight years," Cervantes said, "this act secures a permanent and predictable funding means of assuring fundamental and basic services for water, sewer, roads and utilities. Improving the quality of life is essential to everyone who is working to improve education and attract better jobs to southern New Mexico. Beyond that, this bill shows our collective commitment to decent living conditions within our communities."

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Reporters seeking more information or interviews may call county Public Information Director Jess Williams at (575) 525-5801.