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City continues bid for federal reimbursement

FROM ANTONIO SANCHEZ | OBSERVER STAFF WRITER

A delegation of city officials, including Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull, was among thousands of attendees at ceremonies in Washington, D.C.’s national mall earlier this month to honor fallen police officers and add their names to the National Law Enforcement Memorial wall.

Those remembered included Rio Rancho police officer Gregg Benner and Albuquerque police officer Dan Webster.

Hull set aside part of the trip to meet with members of the New Mexico congressional delegation, visit with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about completing a federal reimbursement due the city, and tend to other city business.

Rio Rancho Police Chief Michael Geier, Benner’s widow, Julie, and several other members of the police department represented Rio Rancho with Hull May 12-18 to attend several law enforcement-related events.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and Gov. Susana Martinez were also in D.C. to remember Webster.

The law enforcement remembrance weekend began May 13 with a ceremony for Webster and other officers at the Arlington National Ceremony. A candlelight vigil was held that night at the national mall, as 20,000 candles were lit around the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool. The new names added to the wall were read during the vigil.

“The most awe-inspiring thing was seeing all those candles,” Hull said. “It was amazing – just all those people that were there, affected by losing a police officer.”

The next day was spent visiting the National Law Enforcement Memorial wall. On Sunday, Hull attended the memorial service on the U.S. Capital lawn.

“I think it’s very important that in a situation like losing an officer, I think it’s important that the city comes out in support,” he said. “It’s not that every officer is not very, very important to this city, in this particular, losing Gregg Benner in this manner was very heinous in the way that it happened — it was a shock and affront to the city, so I did think it was important that the city be represented and his family was represented in D.C.”

Hull spent the last few days of the visit speaking with the state congressional representatives and federal agency officials.

On May 16, he spoke with the National Endowment of the Arts about funds for an art project in Rio Rancho. As 1 percent of funds from the city’s $9 million in road bond money is set aside for an art project, Hull said, he asked the NEA to match the city’s 1 percent to help pay for planning and engineering.

On the next day, Hull met with Sen. Martin Heinrich, a representative of Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office and Congressman Ben Ray Lujan. Hull also spoke with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding the outstanding balance of a reimbursement owed to the city.

“We went there to thank them for their support on one side, but then also be persistent about the remaining funds,” Hull said, who visited the agency during a trip to Washington last year.

The city will receive $2.13 million from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on July 1. The funds are a partial reimbursement for $6 million outstanding to the city for meeting federal arsenic treatment requirements for its water system.

“I was advocating for the full $3.8 million so we could get this done and over with, but at the same time, letting them know even if we got $2 million, that’d be a great step forward,” he said.

Airfare and hotel costs for the trip were $2,833.