A significant year for Lea County
The architect’s rendition above shows a line drawing of the Phase 1 expansion of the Lea County Regional Airport terminal.
I was very pleased with and feel very proud to discuss Lea County’s impactful activities and investments in 2018 which spanned the full spectrum of county services, public safety, infrastructure, facilities, programs and employee retention and recruitment to provide for the betterment of the health, safety and welfare of County residents.
Public safety has and continues to be a top priority for the County. It added five additional full time deputies to the sheriff’s office, implemented a competitive compensation package for deputies and the County approved a salary adjustment that improved the salaries of the County’s public safety and law enforcement personnel.
The Lea County Comminutions Authority earned a reaccreditation in April of 2018. I was very proud that Angela Martinez, LCCA director, was rightfully recognized by the National Emergency Number Association as the State of New Mexico Director of the Year. I was also impressed with one of our LCCA supervisors, Paul Kroch. He provided thoughtful lifesaving efforts and directions that the Hobbs News-Sun reported on. Kelly Livingston, director of the County’s Probation Department, expanded mental health treatment services to treat co-occurring disorders of mental health and substance abuse and her department hosted and instructed both the Court Officer Basic Training and Court Officer Advanced Training Academies for 32 officers across the State of New Mexico. Kelly also implemented a new program called the Community Involvement Program which included a food and donation drive that reached and impacted dozens and dozens of families.
What I shared about Angela, Paul and Kelly are representative of the types of valued employees we have at Lea County. All of them are motivated employees who care about and wish to make Lea County a better place.
You can also find many hard working and loyal employees at the Lea County Road Department. Lea County owns and maintains more than 1,200 miles of county roadway that traverse 4,394 square miles.
The Lea County Board of Commissioners regularly provide its direction on county roads and at nearly every board meeting the Commissioners hear from staff about county roads. Several challenges exist when maintaining and improving county roads: many road ways have increasing high volumes of commercial traffic, but under the management of Assistant County Manager Corey Needham, the county has been able to steadily improve county roads and not get behind due to the increase in heavy truck traffic.
Predominantly in the southern and southwest portion of the county there are many roads that are several miles in length that have significant curves. These curves along with commercial trucks passing each other caused the County to take a broader approach in road reconstruction, maintenance, improvement and curve alignment and invested funding at improving strategic intersections.
In 2018 Lea County invested nearly $5,300,000 in roadway improvements that include roads that have had historically high commercial traffic, such as Weaver Road and also improved and reconstructed local residential roads such as West Avenue J in Lovington. Several roadway intersections were improved, such as Kansas and Alabama roads and N.M. Highway 18 and the County strategically widen and reconstructed curves along Battle Axe Road. Within the Lovington Area, the County invested $1,388,000 – which consisted mostly of applying a slurry seal to various roads, reconstruction of 17th Street, and the reconstruction of several residential roads and intersections. The Eunice Area saw more than $2 million invested in county roads, the reconstruction of Weaver Road and Texas were two large projects in that area. The Hobbs area saw nearly $1,6 million in reconstructions of various residential roads and intersections. With more than $300,000 invested in the Jal area on curve widening projects.
With the County’s selfless service volunteers and knowledgeable employees, such as 15-year county veteran Jim Kemp, general manager of the Lea County Fairgrounds, the 2018 Lea County Fair and PRCA Rodeo was awarded the “Rodeo of the Year” by the Turquoise Circuit of the PRCA. This circuit is comprised of 20 sanctioned rodeos in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Texas and Grammy-award wining Country singer Martina McBride highlighted the final night of the Lea County Fair event.
While the County has worked to improve county roads, the same holds true for the county’s airport facilities. The county owns the Zip Franklin Memorial Airport in Lovington, the Lea County Regional Airport in Hobbs and the Jal Airport in Jal. In 2018 the County awarded Lasco Construction the project to remodel and expand the terminal at the Lea Regional Airport with a project cost of more than $5 million and the county completed a nearly $200,000 payment for the rehabilitation of Zip Franklin Airport. There was also the $228,000 road and drainage project at the Jal Airport.
Significant building construction and improvement took place in 2018, an estimated $11.4 million was spent on county buildings and facilities overseen by County Facility Director Erich Franke. These projects include a remodeling of the county community centers in Knowles and Monument and office remodel at the Lea County Fairgrounds with added electrical capacity in the sale barn and adding a large shade structure to the north side of the sale barn. Construction of the new Lea County Judicial Complex made up the bulk of the County’s investments in buildings and in 2018 the County awarded a request for proposal for architectural services to remodel the historic courthouse.
I thought 2018 was a significant year for Lea County – investing in county employees, public safety, roads, quality of life and county facilities, stay tuned…there is much more to come in 2019!
Mike Gallagher is the county manager of Lea County.
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