Sometimes wishes do come true.
Just ask Mayor Alan Webber and members of the Santa Fe City Council, who requested — and received — millions of dollars from the state last year for capital projects they identified in a wish list of “legislative priorities” for state lawmakers to consider funding.
Hoping for a repeat in the 30-day legislative session that starts in January, the mayor and councilors recently adopted a resolution outlining the projects they hope to get funded in 2020.
At the top of the list is a request for $10 million to expand the Santa Fe Regional Airport terminal, currently a small, out-of-date building that pales in comparison to, say, the significantly larger terminal at the Albuquerque International Sunport.
The proposed expansion of the Santa Fe terminal is part of a larger effort to turn the municipal airport into a bigger economic engine.
“The airport expansion will support the city Santa Fe’s economic development strategy of growing from within,” Rich Brown, the city’s economic development director, wrote in an email.
“It helps deepen regional specialization and emerging industries that fit with Santa Fe’s strengths and uniqueness — whether it is film, food manufacturing, technology, outdoors or the arts and tourism,” he wrote. “An expansion initiative helps us grow our export capabilities while positioning us to be more attractive if firms seek to relocate here. It will help grow our prosperity by boosting trade while bringing in income and investment.”
City Councilor Chris Rivera, whose southwest-side district includes the airport, said a busier terminal means more money for city coffers.
“We rely a lot on gross receipts taxes,” he said. “Visitors to Santa Fe provide us most of our general fund money, so keeping tourism accessible in Santa Fe and making sure that people get here and can spend some money here on restaurants and hotels and anything else is a good thing for our economy and ultimately for the people of Santa Fe.”
Construction on the terminal, as well as parking lot and circulation road improvements, would cost $21.5 million.
The terminal expansion, which calls for an additional gate and new baggage claim area, among other work, makes up the biggest line item in the overall cost of the project: $14.5 million. Parking lot and circulation road improvements that include adding 580 more parking spaces and building a cellphone waiting lane would cost an estimated $4 million. And a remodel of the existing terminal, which calls for reconfiguring the security screening area and more counters for additional flights, is pegged at $3 million.
The city has identified $11.5 million in available funding and is requesting $10 million from the state. Last year, the city requested $14 million from the state for the airport terminal project and received $9 million.
The city’s lobbyist, Mark Duran, told the governing body last month the airport funding request had a lot of support and was included in the initial statewide capital outlay list.
“One of the things you want to always try to do is to first and foremost get your capital outlay labeled a ‘statewide priority’ because then it gets carved out from all the state capital outlay funds first, so that you don’t have to fight for it in what I call the sort of crumb game, sometimes big-dollar game,” he said.
“We lobbied for that in a different way … and we will again push with our great Santa Fe delegation to have that included that way again, as it’s our No. 1 priority and hopefully it will be included as such,” he added.
The city also received about $925,000 to solarize city facilities and $1.1 million for the planning, design and construction of the Southside Teen Center in 2019, among other funding requests.
The city is requesting more than $23 million in funding for a wide array of projects in 2020, including the $10 million for the airport, an additional $4 million for the teen center, and $3 million for utility and other infrastructure at the vacant college campus it owns in the midtown area. The city also is asking for $500,000 to purchase electric fleet vehicles and associated charging infrastructure, as well as $100,000 to install diaper changing rooms in city-owned buildings.
When the council considered the requests last month, City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler raised concerns with the number and type of funding requests from the city, especially during a 30-day legislative session.
“We could compete against ourselves for some of these funds,” she said. “All the monies in here could take away from the airport, could take way from the teen center, could take away from the midtown campus, and I for one would hate to see that happen.”
Webber said members of Santa Fe’s legislative delegation urged the city to be “more ambitious” in its requests because the state had a surplus.
“We were, I think, perhaps underimagining what was feasible,” he said last month. “And then with the influx of revenue into the state coffers, we were in a position, thanks to the advice of our delegation, to go for an additional set of allocations.”
Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.