DALLAS – Santa Fe, N.M., will power a community center using solar energy panels financed with proceeds from $17.8 million of general obligation bonds approved by voters Tuesday.

The proposal for $3.8 million of environmental projects, which includes the photovoltaic installation, was the most popular of three bond questions decided by voters in New Mexico’s capital city. The environmental question passed with 55% support.

A proposal for $14 million of GO bonds for park projects squeaked by with a 52% in favor, but a request for $5 million of bonds for public safety needs was rejected by 55% of those voting.

Campaign finance reports filed with the city showed that the Santa Fe Federated Republican Women Political Action Committee spent $2,813 to send voters 5,000 postcards urging the defeat of all three bond proposals. The Community Works Political Action Committee reported it spent $5,162 in support of the measures.

Santa Fe’s firefighters union supported the public safety question, which was rejected, but the police association did not take a stand.

Preliminary totals indicate 10,202 of the city’s 49,311 registered voters cast ballots.

Santa Fe is rated Aa2 by Moody’s Investors Service and AA-plus by Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s. The city is located 60 miles north of Albuquerque and contains almost $10 billion of assessed property.

City officials said the $17.8 million of new debt will increase the annual property tax bill on a $300,000 residence by $43 a year.

Proceeds from the public safety bonds would have built a new fire station on the city’s southwest side to provide service to a recently annexed area. The proposal also included completion of a stalled expansion of police headquarters.

The new power system at the Genoveve Chavez Community Center is expected to generate 600,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, or about 25% of the power used at the facility.

The system is expected to pay for its $1.8 million cost through lower energy costs by the 15th year of operation.

Proceeds from the remaining $2 million of bonds earmarked for environmental efforts will go to drainage projects associated with more than 50 usually dry creek beds known as arroyos that can flood after heavy rains. Many of the waterways now are obstructed at least partially by sediment buildup and erosion.

The drainage work will also provide more efficient recharge of aquifers, the city said.

The $14 million of GO bonds earmarked for park projects will finance the first phase of a large regional park and improvements to Santa Fe’s system of hiking and biking trails.

The bonds will provide the first $5 million of the expected $19 million price tag for the regional park. The initial phase will include a multi-purpose sports field, basketball court, and playground.

Voters in 2008 approved $30 million of 20-year bonds for park improvements, of which $27.7 million is outstanding.

Work has been completed on most of the park projects in the 2008 bond program. Some $3 million of the new money will improve city parks not included in the earlier effort.

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