BLOOMFIELD — Bloomfield's petition to annex 6,775 acres east and northwest of city limits has been approved by the state's Municipal Boundary Commission.

The land increase doubled the size of Bloomfield, which is currently 7.9 square miles, or about 5,000 acres, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"It's a done deal. They didn't have to think about it," City Manager David Fuqua said Monday about the commission's approval, which came late last week. "They were impressed at how ready the city was and how everything presented was well orchestrated and prepared. This was not small, by any means. It's going to have long-term, positive, far-reaching effects that will benefit citizens of Bloomfield."

Tim Korte, spokesman for the state's Municipal Boundary Commission, could not confirm approval of the annexation when reached by phone on Monday.

The move to expand northward on both the west and east sides of the former city limits was primarily in response to what Fuqua sees as a coming boom in oil-field production.

The expansion will add about $1 million a year to the city's tax base, but there also will be costs, including providing infrastructure to natural gas-fired plants that populate a stretch of County Road 4900, in the city's new eastern territory.

Fuqua said building a water line to the plants would cost approximately $400,000, but the price tag would be easily eclipsed by the financial gain the city stands to make.

"The refineries are going to pay their fair share now," Fuqua said. "That's at least a million more (per year) — property taxes, (gross receipts taxes) on electric sold there — all that will definitely offset the cost."

To reassure the oil field companies, the city changed a clause in an ordinance that regulates structure heights at the plants.

Gas plants along County Road 4900 on Monday that are now within the Bloomfield city limits after an annexation was approved by the state’s Municipal
Gas plants along County Road 4900 on Monday that are now within the Bloomfield city limits after an annexation was approved by the state's Municipal Boundary Commission. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

"All of the gas plants were given a 'heavy industrial' zoning. Conoco wanted assurance that we're not going to further place restrictions on them if they were annexed into the city in order to operate as they have for the last 30 years," Mayor Scott Eckstein said. "We changed our zoning ordinance to accommodate the refineries."

A clause change approved by council last month allows for structures higher than 35 feet. Some stacks at the plant are 90 feet in height, Fuqua said.

Aside from the water line, the city has few, if any, other expenses related to infrastructure requirements, Fuqua said.

"That's the beauty of it," Eckstein said. "There's not a lot of infrastructure that immediately needs to be done because a lot of (the annexed areas) is state and BLM land."

The annexation includes 78 percent federal, 9 percent state and 13 percent privately held land.

"We will likely have to run a bigger water line to the plants ... and we have two or three years to get that done," Fuqua said. "It's revenue versus expenses and here, the revenue wins out."

Fuqua said the city is in a better position to control growth within its newly expanded city limits, which will save money in the long run.

"It's definitely a proactive (move)," he said. "If you talk to any town that has had a boom, there were a lot of mistakes and decisions made on the fly. We wanted to expand before you need to deal with a situation. We knew that we had to get our ducks, the finances, in a row. We can control what will be built in town and make better financial decisions as a result. We can control the growth in the city rather than annex something out of control and have to reel it in."

Fuqua said the slow "ramping up" in oil production gives the city a year or more to update codes, zoning and land-use restrictions.

Seven private residences in the North Frontier subdivision along Pixly Street were included, and though some property owners had questions about the expansion, none of them fought it, Fuqua said.

"Their water's now cheaper and they have a right to city services, like fire and police," Eckstein said. "In a time of emergency, your city services are right there."

Those residents lack city sewer services, however, but both Eckstein and Fuqua said if those residents want to be connected, they can do so by paying for a line on their property and connecting it to the sewer line. Any portion of the infrastructure not on private property will be paid for by the city.

"I do appreciate the Municipal Boundary Commission for their diligence and their foresight," Fuqua said. "They saw the big picture and I really appreciate that. Same with the council. Looking down the road into the future ... they all saw it as a positive move. This was about a year-long process, a lot of work into this. Tried for the 31 years numerous times and never could get it done."

Eckstein pointed to the city's new shape as a result of the annexation.

"Bloomfield's squared off — squared away," he said. "I always thought it looked like ET's head upside down with a big long neck before. Now it's a lot better."

James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4631 and Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.