AZTEC — Aztec's future got a little bit brighter Tuesday night when the City Commission approved funding for 25 new 30-foot light poles and 50 fixtures in the medians that run along Aztec Boulevard from the Animas River bridge north to Pioneer Street. The medians are on state lands, which required approval from the Department of Transportation.

Designed to match existing poles and fixtures that run along Main Street, the new Victorian "Old Boston" style lights will use a cost- and energy-efficient LED design.

The new fixtures were one of several investments and infrastructure improvements the commission members approved Tuesday evening.

The commission also agreed to spend nearly a quarter of a million dollars from general fund cash reserves to help pay for infrastructure improvements at the intersection of Pepsi Way and Main Street to bring a 71-room Microtel Inn, with the hope of attracting with new tourism dollars, and 11 full-time and six part-time jobs to the city.

They also approved upgrading the automation of one of the city's four water-treatment plants at a cost of around $400,000. Treatment Plant No. 2 is now slated for the first of three specific upgrades. The project involves the replacement of out-of-date control, power, and valve systems, which will improve the plant's operations while requiring less human intervention.


But before the regularly scheduled meeting, the commission held an at-times contentious workshop to address local business concerns that a city code which requires Dumpsters to be housed in enclosures is too expensive. Three business owners showed up to the workshop, which spent the majority of the hour trying to clear up misconceptions about the city's push for code compliance.

City Manager Joshua Ray said business owners who could not afford enclosures could use "roll-out carts," or apply for a variance, citing economic hardship, but these alternatives were met with further complaints that the carts were less than satisfactory and the cost to build the enclosures were de facto fees charged to some, but not all businesses.

The code is part of a city effort to beautify Aztec while ensuring right-of-way for vehicles, Transit Waste trucks, and provide access to city gas, water, and power infrastructure. The business owners, however, were upset at the cost of meeting the code.

"I am not paying the $4,500," Cheryl Larabee, owner of Larabee Construction, 105 W. Chaco, said, referring to the average cost to build a Dumpster enclosure the city is asking for. "I'm not paying the low-end estimate, either." she said.

Larabee said she shares her Dumpster with an herbal store next door to her business.

"We simply don't have adequate space to build an enclosure fence, rock, whichever," she said.

Both Ray and Roshanna Moojen, the city development coordinator, tried to tamp down frustration by emphasizing the city's willingnessÊ to work with businesses on a case-by-case basis.

"All you have to do when you get a letter from us," Ray assured the business leaders, "is ask, 'What do you want me to do?' That will get the conversation started."

Commissioner Gene Current urged the frustrated business owner in attendance to keep an open mind.

"I hope we're all not missing the point that we're only trying to get the city of Aztec to grow," Current said, urging unity and patience.

"I would like to see more of an attitude of what can we do to make this better," Current said, "instead of digging in your heels and just saying 'No.'"

Moojen emphasized the city's investment of millions of taxpayer dollars versus the relatively small expense of meeting the code.