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PORTALES — The city of Portales in 2021 welcomed opportunities to bring back popular events that had been suspended in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the pandemic did not go away.

The city also wrestled this year with ushering in a new industry based on the New Mexico Legislature’s legalization of recreational cannabis use in the 2021.

Retail sales of recreational cannabis are expected to begin on or before April 1.

The city also revised its council districts to accommodate findings of the 2020 U.S. Census, and annexed the Roosevelt General Hospital and nearby land.

The city welcomed back Heritage Days, a two-day outdoor event that started with a street dance on July 16, and continued the next day with a fun run and walk, a car show, the annual Heritage Days Parade, a volleyball tournament and live music through the afternoon.

The event drew record attendance after the pandemic suspended it last year, according to Karl Terry, executive director of Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce.

There was another revival in October as Portales resumed its Peanut Valley Craft and Music Festival, which took a year off last year due to COVID-19. Record crowds made up for lost time in taking advantage of the festival’s shopping, dining, demonstrations and entertainment, Terry said.

The chamber also revived its Christmas Light Parade on Dec. 3 as a return to normal. The parade moved past parade-goers. In 2020, the parade stood still while viewers, isolated in their cars against COVID-19, drove by.

COVID-19 vaccinations were available at both the Heritage Days and Peanut Valley events, but that was not enough to keep Portales and Roosevelt County from racking up high numbers of new cases in 2021.

On Dec. 10, Portales tallied the most new cases of COVID-19, a total of 78, of any ZIP code in the state.

Roosevelt County’s COVID-19 caseloads grew rapidly in 2021. By Dec. 21, Roosevelt County had recorded 390 new cases for the month, an average of nearly 19 a day. In November, the county recorded 248 new cases. The county has also recorded 75 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began.

After spending much of 2021 studying the 272-page New Mexico law that legalizes recreational cannabis use, the Portales City Council on Aug. 24 gave final approval to an ordinance that will allow and regulate cannabis businesses, from growers to retailers, to operate in the city.

The cannabis ordinance requires that cannabis businesses must be more than 300 feet from any school or day care; more than300 feet from any residence, religious assembly or church, library, cultural center, community center, public park or government facility; and more than 50 feet from any other cannabis establishment.

It also limits hours of operation from 7 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to midnight Sunday for cannabis consumption areas; 7 a.m.-midnight Monday through Saturday and noon to midnight Sundays for off-site consumption.

At a conference Nov 12 held at Eastern New Mexico University and sponsored by the Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce, industry observers noted that the Clovis-Portales area is likely to host the state’s third-largest cannabis market.

After a research firm presented three options for redistricting Portales as required after a U.S. Census, and after a series of discussion sessions and a hearing, the city council approved a plan on Nov. 16.

The chosen option expands the boundaries of Ward A, the central district that lost the most population between 2010 and 2020 by a few blocks from each of the city’s other three wards, all of which share boundaries with Ward A.

Councilors said the chosen option results in “cleaner” boundaries between districts.

Ward A’s population increases from 2,730 to 2,965 as a result of the boundary nudges, which ensures all four district populations are equitable, within an acceptable range within 5% of the “ideal” average of 3,034 per district.

The goal in all of the Polling and Research options was to “make as small a change as possible” in the districts.

In the regular meeting, the council approved the option that expands District A’s boundaries by taking a few blocks from each of the city’s other three districts, all of which share boundaries with Ward A.

Ward A’s population increases from 2,730 to 2,965 as a result of the boundary nudges, which ensures all four district populations are equitable, within an acceptable range within 5% of the “ideal” average of 3,034 per district.

Also, in Portales this year:

• In June, the council voted to hire Sarah Austin as Portales’ city manager to replace Sammy Standefer, who retired May 28 after 29 years with the city and six years as city manager. On Dec. 18, after a two-hour executive session, the council did not announce a decision on Austin’s status following the contract’s probationary period. A decision is expected at the council’s Tuesday meeting.

• In conjunction with an expanded effort at trash removal in alleys, the city of Portales asked citizens to report instances of illegal dumping. According to a city release, the public works department dedicated its entire staff to alleyway cleanup. The release reported the city the cleanup has included 600 mattresses and other undisclosed large items that do not fit in alleyway trash bins.

• The city council on Dec. 7 unanimously approved via ordinance the annexation of Roosevelt General Hospital and 36.4 acres of nearby property to the city. According to the text of the ordinance, the hospital requested the annexation. RGH celebrated its 20th anniversary on Nov. 3.

• To help deal with chronic trash problems, the city expanded trash removal efforts in alleys, and asked citizens to report illegal dumping. In a news release, the city announced that the public works department has dedicated its entire staff to alleyway cleanup. The release reported the city the cleanup has included 600 mattresses and other undisclosed large items that do not fit in alleyway trash bins.

• The city council on Dec.7 approved an Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan that includes 17 projects for which the city would seek capital outlay allocations from the New Mexico Legislature when it convenes on Jan. 18. The top five priorities include improvements in the city’s water wellfields, Improvements on Avenue A from First Street to Second Street, purchase of a new street sweeper, improvement on Lime Street from North Avenue O to Chicago Avenue, and the purchase of new emulsion tanks to store asphalt materials,

• Heavy rain in Portales on May 15 dumped more than two inches on city streets, causing flooding that even washed cars away.

• Two of Roosevelt County’s last surviving World War II veterans, Alfredo Bachicha Jr., and Clarence Thompson, received recognition on Veterans Day.

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