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City council votes to allocate ARPA funds, limit plastic bag use, start TNR program


The Las Cruces City Council had unanimous votes at its Aug. 16 regular meeting to spend millions of dollars in American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds, limit the use of single-use plastic bags in the city and adopt a new animal ordinance that includes a trap-neuter-return program.

ARPA funds

After several months of extensive discussions, the Las Cruces City Council voted 6-0 at its Aug. 16 regular meeting to adopt a resolution authorizing the city to accept a budget adjustment allocating a first tranche of almost $12.4 million in ARPA money.

The first tranche of ARPA funding allocations will include:

  • Public health response: $525,000 for Las Cruces Fire Department Mobile Integrated Health squad vehicles; $160,00 for Las Cruces Police Department victims assistance and community assistance vehicles; $40,000 for police communications equipment;, $35,000 for personal protective equipment; and emergency response;
  • Revenue loss and economic impact: $429,030 to be used to help construct a competitive community pool; $2,330,915 to construct a transit maintenance building; $4,128,725 that will be used to help fund general obligation bond projects; $500,000 for Visit Las Cruces tourism and hospitality programs; and $2,806,243 for community and economic development initiatives that will help address negative economic impacts;
  • Water and sewer improvements: $425,000 for a sewer connect program;
  • Premium pay: $1 million for essential city employees pay.

In response to economic hardships because of the coronavirus pandemic, ARPA funding will provide direct allocations to the city to aid in recovery efforts. A second tranche of almost $12.4 million will be received by the city in May 2022. All told, the city will be allocated almost $24.8 million.

Plastic bag limits

The council unanimously adopted an ordinance to limit the use of single-use plastic carryout bags in certain retail operations in Las Cruces. The ordinance will go into effect Jan. 1, 2022.

After a written first warning, the ordinance will include a $100 fine for a first offense to retailers.

The uses of single-use plastic bags and their typical disposal rates create an impediment to the city’s waste reduction and recycling goals while creating unsightly litter.

Single-use plastic bags are difficult to recycle and frequently contaminate materials that are processed through the city's curbside recycling program. Reusable bags are the preferred option to reduce waste and litter, protect wildlife and conserve resources and help eliminate a source for toxins.

Of 1,600 residents who responded to a city survey, 70 percent said they would start or continue using reusable bags or buy bags as a result of the ordinance.

Several types of plastic bags will be excluded from the ordinance. Those include: laundry dry cleaning bags; door-hangar bags; newspaper bags; and packages of multiple bags intended for disposing of garbage, pet waste and yard waste; plastic bags used by pharmacies or veterinarians for prescriptions or other medical necessities; bags to take away prepared foods from a restaurant; bags used inside a retail establishment to carry bulk items such as produce, frozen foods, unwrapped prepared foods or bakery goods. Also excluded will be bags used by nonprofit agencies or hunger relief charities to distribute food, groceries, clothing or household items.

Additionally, city council voted 6-0 to adopt an ordinance that repeals and replaces Chapter 7, Animals, in the Las Cruces Municipal Code with a new version that includes provisions for a trap-neuter-return (TNR) Program.

The TNR program will provide a humane alternative to euthanasia to control feral cat populations by live-trapping cats, spaying or neutering them, ear-tipping the cats for identification, vaccinating them and then returning them to the area where they were trapped.