T-or-C Citizens Air Views

City Forum

Truth or Consequences (T-or-C) city commissioners and administrative staff welcomed community members for a special town hall forum, Monday, February 27. The two-hour gathering attracted a small but attentive group of locals, who were all offered an opportunity to share concerns or suggestions about the city’s current operations and/or future goals. Commission members convened the evening session in order to include community perceptions and recommendations in 2017/2018 budget decisions, which board members will be addressing in the coming weeks.

Vets’ Home Mgmt To Change Hands

NMSVH

The New Mexico Departments of Health (DOH) and Veterans Services (DVS) announced this week the proposed transfer of management from DOH to DVS to continue improving services to New Mexico’s veterans and their families.
The transfer will help build on the progress the two agencies have made in serving New Mexico’s veterans by ensuring the state agency charged with serving those who’ve served our state and country in the U.S. Armed Forces oversees the home’s oper- ations. The change is planned for an effective date of July 1, 2017.

Talk Of Arena Upgrades

sierra-county-commissioner-frances-luna

At the conclusion of a December 13 joint workshop, members of the Sierra County Commission and Truth or Consequences (T-or-C) City Commission agreed to consider a combined effort to fund the initiation of improvements for the city’s Punk Greer Memorial Rodeo Arena.

EB Manager Resigns

andrew-finzen

Earlier this week, Elephant Butte City Manager Andrew Finzen announced his decision to accept a new post as the city manager for Goodland, Kansas. This move will allow Finzen to advance some of his personal career goals and will also bring him quite a bit closer to family and friends he left back…

Meeting On Forest Service Monday

Please attend a public meeting sponsored by the Sierra County Commission on Monday, August 15 at 6 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Albert Lyons Event Center in Truth or Consequences at the Sierra County Fair Grounds.
The U.S. Forest Service has severely restricted the use of public lands for hunting, fishing, camping, mining, ranching, outfitters, guides and any and all pubic recreation.

Solution Sought For Intersection

school-bus

With a unanimous vote August 9, Truth or Consequences (T-or-C) City Commissioners approved a resolution (No. O5 16/17) urging the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) to install a traffic light at the corner of New School Road and Date Street.
Introduced by commissioner Rolf Hechler, the measure responds to numerous complaints, which emphasize how the intersection serves a high volume of traffic and is the primary entry and egress point for students at nearby Hot Springs High School and T-or-C Middle School.

EB Waits On JPA With County

After discussing a proposed joint powers agreement (JPA) with the Sierra County Detention Center during their October 21 regular session, the Elephant Butte City Council unanimously approved a motion to postpone consideration of the measure pending clarification of two primary issues.
The proposed measure is similar to a recent agreement between Sierra County and the city of Truth or Consequences, which ensures that the detention center receives fair compensation for housing inmates arrested within the city…

New County Leaders Share Plans For Growth

sierra county

Sierra County Commissioners welcomed reports from newly hired Sierra Soil and Water Conservation Department (SSWCD) Director Toby Boone and Sierra County Extension Agent Josh Boyd during the board’s October 20 regular session. Each were recently hired and while obviously still assimilating to their new duties, provided the commission with brief outlines of their respective goals and objectives.
Boone was first to address the board. He began by asserting that he is a third generation resident of Sierra County and emphasizing his family was pleased with the opportunity to return to familiar surroundings…

Sheriff’s K-9 Program Looking For Help

Sierra County Sheriff’s Office Cpl. Clay Cheney considers his partner, Susie, to be one of the most important members of the law enforcement community.
Sheriff Glenn Hamilton agrees. He calls the 72-pound yellow lab “A key element in my three-prong approach toward drug interdiction.”
The two-year-old fully trained and certified narcotics canine was purchased while former Sheriff Joe Baca was in office, and is one of several that the department has had since the 1990s.
Since the budgeting process for the department doesn’t begin until April, and there was no money budgeted for the care and maintenance of the canine in the last round, Cpl. Cheney is feeding, paying for veterinarian bills and shots, and all costs associated with Susie out of his own pocket…

County Opposes Wolf Program

In a unanimous vote, Sierra County Commissioners during their February 17 session approved a resolution (#103-065) establishing their opposition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Wolf Recovery Program.
Prior to the vote, commission members heard public comments from a half-dozen citizens in support of the proposed resolution. The comments included requests for the board to consider enacting an ordinance, instead of a less formal resolution, saying an ordinance would assure the statutory authority of the Sierra County Sheriff’s Department in related matters.
After discussing the option, commissioners decided to approve the proposed resolution as written, but heeding the public comments, also agreed to consider a potential ordinance, or an additional resolution, to further define the county’s opposition to the present wolf recovery initiative.
The approved resolution spells out Sierra County’s direct opposition to FWS revisions of the wolf recovery program, which involved…

Commission Hears Status Of County

sierra county

Over the past two weeks Sierra County leaders have met with state legislative representatives, and are planning more visits in the days ahead. As usual, these efforts are made in hopes of furthering the county’s relationship with Santa Fe, and of course to acquire funding assistance for an ever-evolving list of important projects.

The annual exercise in politics and diplomacy is perhaps more critical than in years past, as development of a new detention center, growing solid waste concerns and a variety of other pressing needs must be addressed with a very limited budget. Those concerns could be further reduced by key legislation now being considered at the state level.

On January 28, Sierra County Commissioners met with county manager Bruce Swingle for a special strategic planning workshop, which provided newly elected commission members with an opportunity to review the county’s present status, future goals, and potential obstacles on the path toward improvement.

Gross Receipts Tax Goes Up Jan. 1

With this year’s approval of the so-called ‘Hold Harmless’ bill by state legislators, and a subsequent measure by Sierra County Commissioners approving a related tax hike, area residents and businesses will see an increase in the county’s Gross Receipt Tax (GRT) rate, effective January 1, 2015.
The increase is intended to compensate county governments for a significant loss in operating revenues, which was realized following the legislature’s earlier decision to eliminate a previous funding stream utilizing taxes on food and medicine.
According to county manager Bruce Swingle, January’s tax hike will add three one-eighth’s of a percent and will bring the county’s overall tax rate to 6.6875 percent…

First Official Action

After the newly elected candidates were sworn in Friday morning, December 19, they all took a moment to join efforts in cutting the celebratory cake! Pictured above cutting the cake from left to right are assessor Keith Whitney, his deputy assessor Mike Huston, Sheriff Glen Hamilton…

Farewells Top County

sierra county

The Sierra County Commis-sion’s December 17 regular session included a number of important action items and reports, but also marked the final regular meeting for outgoing Commission Chairman Walter Armijo and Commis-sioner Bobby Allen.
With newly elected commission members Sherry Fletcher and Ken Lyons set to be sworn in the following Friday morning, Vice Chairman Frances Luna joined with staff members in presenting Allen and Armijo with commemorative plaques, recognizing their service for the community.
While a lone statement during public comment showed that not every resident was satisfied with the board’s performance during Chairman Armijo’s tenure, numerous other comments reflected a true appreciation for his and Allen’s efforts during their terms on the commission…

Wolf EIS Completed

After reviewing extensive public comments, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has completed its evaluation of proposed changes to its Mexican wolf reintroduction program in Arizona and New Mexico that will allow greater flexibility to conserve one of the nation’s rarest mammals and greater responsiveness to the needs of local communities in cases of problem wolf behavior.
In releasing its Final En-vironmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on new provisions proposed under the Endangered Species Act in 2013 and revis-ed last summer, the FWS sets the stage for a final decision on the changes in the program in January 2015.
“We have received and analyzed more than 40,000 comments on the proposed changes as part of developing the Environmental Impact Statement, as well as consulted with state agencies, tribes, and other stakeholders,” said Ben-jamin Tuggle, the Service’s Southwest Regional Director. “We believe the preferred al-ternative strikes the best balance in terms of what is needed to re-establish a genetically diverse wolf population while supporting the interests of other stakeholders on a working landscape.”…

County To Purchase Property

sierra county

After holding closed-door discussions before the conclusion of their regular meeting Tuesday, November 18, Sierra County Commissioners reopened the public session and approved a motion to proceed with the purchase of property and facilities at 2501 South Broadway, currently occupied by Whitehead Chevrolet.
In a short telephone interview later in the afternoon, Sierra County Manager Bruce Swingle confirmed that the property would be acquired for a total purchase price of $716,500.
Swingle said the transaction would include the sale of county-owned property at 1903 South Broadway (formerly designated to house a new Sierra County Road Department complex), as well as approximately $421,500 of road department funding previously set aside for development of a new facility.
The county manager said that the property at 1903 South Broadway was being sold for a recognized market value of approximately $295,000. He went on to explain how a past RFP (request for proposal) seeking bids for development of a road department facility at the site returned with no proposals that would meet the county’s needs for the available funding…

New Administrator At County Jail

Police beat

Formally introduced to Sierra County residents during the County Commission’s regular meeting Tuesday, September 16, Virginia Lee is just now completing her first week at the helm of Sierra County’s much-beleaguered Detention Center facility. While still assimilating to her new surroundings and difficult tasks at hand, Lee indicated she was confident the facility’s problems could be directly addressed, as well as in her ability to effect necessary revisions to improve operations and soon bring the Detention Center into full compliance. In introducing Lee to commissioners, County manager Bruce Swingle said her qualifications far outpaced all other applicants for the administrator’s post, noting her career included 18 years of experience with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, as well as 10 years experience with Riverside, California’s Sheriff’s Department…

Detention Troubles Front And Center

Police beat

During their July 15 session, Sierra County Commissioners were confronted with a list problems and concerns relating to the Sierra County Detention Center and its operations. Addressing the board during public comment, Detention Center Officer William White cited a number of pressing concerns. While serving as spokesman, White was accompanied by fellow Detention Officer Anita Palladino and Sergeant Ruben Lucero, who were on hand to offer their support of his statements. White first told how the county administration’s recent promise to introduce policy changes and revisions at the detention center has yet to materialize. He suggested present management by the Sierra County Sheriff’s Department …

County Manager Selected

sierra county

After conducting an executive session and reopening the July 15 regular meeting to the public, Sierra County Commissioners unanimously approved a motion selecting current McKinley Coun-ty Manager Bruce Swingle to fill the vacant position of Sierra County Manager. Before accepting his current position with McKinley County, Swingle served as county manager for Valen-cia County and previously held the post of Loss Pre-vention Director for the New Mexico Association of Counties. Allowing time for the proper submission and processing of his resignation from McKinley County, Swingle is anticipated to begin his new role as Sierra County Manager on or about Monday, August 18. According to information obtained from the McKinley County website (www.co. mckinley.nm.us) Swingle has over 30 years of professional experience in the public sector. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from Wayland Baptist Uni-versity and is a graduate of the FBI’s National Academy.A report published by the Albuquerque Journal on August 15, 2013 shows that while serving as Valencia County Manager…

Jail Targeted In Civil Rights Suit

An Albuquerque law firm specializing in claims of wrongful imprisonment, or cases where civil rights have allegedly been violated by governmental agencies, has its sights set on the Sierra County jail. In a lawsuit filed June 25, 2014 in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, Michael Faziani, 57, of Colombia Tennessee, says he suffers from bipolar disorder, and claims he was denied his medication and left untreated in a filthy cell while in solitary confinement here from June 25-July 5, 2012. Those named in the lawsuit are the Sierra County Board of Commissioners, Roxanna Cardenas, Christopher Rees, Leonard Stufflebean and former Jail Administrator Curtis Cherry. According to court records, Faziani was charged with immediate failure to report an accident and making a false police report after hitting a light pole…

Flood Office Dissolution Approved

sierra county

In a two to one vote, with commissioner Bobby Allen dissenting, Sierra County com-missioners approved a motion to dissolve the Office of Flood Commissioner, during a special meeting Tuesday afternoon, June 10. This action, however, included a contingency, which first requires the successful naming of Sierra County’s administration as the legitimate sub-recipient of approximately $5.2 million in flood repair and mitigation funding already appropriated to the Flood Commission by officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In entering the motion, com-mission vice-chair Frances Luna noted the measure was being proposed in order …

Primary Election Tuesday

Your Vote Counts

Democratic and Republican voters will be setting the ballot for November, when they go to the polls in the June 3 party primary elections.  As of Thursday morning, May 29, Sierra County Clerk Connie Greer reported a total of 425 Sierra County residents had taken advantage of early voting opportunities. Greer said her office staff had so far tallied 368 In Person early ballots and mailed out a total of 57 Absentee ballots.  This Sat., May 31, will be the last day for early voting, the County Clerk’s Office will be open on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. for anyone interested in taking advantage of the early voting opportunity. Greer further confirmed all of Sierra County’s polling locations are now functioning as Voting Conveni-ence Centers (VCC), which are capable of accommodating voters from any other precinct within the County. Voters may now stop by any available polling…

County Lets Manager Go

sierra county

Following a closed-door executive Tues., May 13, Sierra County Commissioners re-opened the meeting to the public and in a unanimous vote approved a motion to terminate the contract with County Manager Mark Huntzinger, effective immediately. Commissioners then ac-knowledged County Human Resources Director Janette A. Monsibaiz would be handling the County Manager’s responsibilities, as efforts are initiated to fill the now vacant post.

Mired in Lack of Details
During the commission’s regular session, board members heard a brief report from newly appointed Flood Commissioner Jim Goton. In response to a query from Commission Chairman Walter Armijo, Goton confirmed he had officially accepted the resignation of former Flood Director Barry Ragsdale submitted during the previous week’s special meeting. He later affirmed action had already been taken to advertise for candidates to fill the flood director vacancy. Goton told commissioners his immediate plan to address flood damage repairs throughout the county were focused on the “orderly dispersal of flood funding in the most cost efficient manner, with available information.” He then qualified this statement by stressing, “We have no information, and the GPS numbers do not work.” Goton explained he was unable to correlate areas slated for repairs with coordinates established on the approved Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) worksheets. He noted at least three separate project sites were designated by identical coordinates and told commissioners his efforts to clarify this issue with FEMA officials was thus far without results. Goton went on to relay how much of the on-going repair work was beneficial. While stating he felt the present contractors were doing their best to address their respective project assignments, Goton said his inspection of worksites found a number of efforts were being focused on areas that differed from those designated in the FEMA worksheets. The flood commissioner reemphasized he was unable to properly direct repair efforts without accurate information and relayed how his discussion with a FEMA official in Louisiana served only to direct him to a Google Earth KMZ file which he had yet to be able to access as of the morning’s session.

County Manager Huntzinger explained how the aforementioned files were created with Google Earth, but were not accessible through the Google website. He indicated efforts would be made to aid Goton in accessing the appropriate files. Commission Vice Chair Frances Luna expressed dismay at Goton’s inability to obtain accurate details from FEMA authorities. She noted how former Flood Director Ragsdale had maintained regular communications with FEMA officials and questioned why these contacts and information conduits were not relayed to Goton. The Goton said he queried Ragsdale about this information, but received no response. Luna then questioned why the coordinates could not be located through old school methods; utilizing current maps and emphasized she felt the flood commissioner should be making a more concerned effort to acquire necessary information from FEMA authorities. In a brief statement from one of the contractors presently working on Flood Commission projects, commissioners learned the FEMA worksheets provided only with most basic directions regarding how contractors were to address designated areas of concern. Goton indicated this reinforced how a lack of detailed information was inhibiting the ability to effectively deploy contractor resources told commissioners and said while contracted firms were offering diligent efforts; they were doing so without any direct supervision in the field. Commissioner Bobby Allen questioned the latter statement to which Goton relayed how the responsibility of contractor oversight rested with the flood director’s position and was not included in the flood commissioner’s job description. Goton said he was scheduled to meet with Army Corps of Engineer authorities Wed., May 14 and suggested this session might provide information that would allow him to more effectively coordinate repair efforts. While commissioners considered no formal action regarding the flood commissioner’s report, Luna confirmed administrative assistance would be given to Goton pertaining to the acquisition of more detailed information from FEMA authorities and suggested the board should include regular monthly reports from the flood commissioner on future agendas. Chairman Armijo acknowledged the current tax levy presently provided the county with approximately $300,000 to fund Flood Commission activities. After noting Sierra County was one of only three New Mexico counties with an established flood commission, he suggested alternatives were available and indicated the annual funding could be more directly applied toward addressing flood repairs and…

Emotions Flood Meeting

After initiating their May 5 special meeting, Sierra County Commissioners opened the floor for public comments and were immediately confronted with an onslaught of concerns centering on newly appointed Flood Commissioner Jim Goton and recent flood mitigation actions taken by long time Flood Director Barry Ragsdale. Flood Director Ragsdale was first to address commissioners and in prepared statement, began by noting he has been forced to operate without an appointed Flood Commissioners for three of the seven plus years he has held the position. In responding to the September 2013 floods which ravaged areas along Animas Creek and several other major watersheds throughout the county, Ragsdale relayed how he met with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials and how, over the past seven months, he has been working through mandatory application processes to acquire funding to address flood damage repairs. Ragsdale stressed his efforts have been focused on providing safeguards for area residents and addressing related property concerns in the best manner possible. Following Governor Susana Martinez’ April 29 appointment of Jim Goton to fill the long vacant Sierra County Flood Commissioner post, Ragsdale …

Pestak Retires

On December 31, 2013 Sierra County Magistrate Court Judge Thomas G. Pestak formally declared his intent to retire after 20 years of service. With Governor Susana Martinez’ recent appointment of Elephant Butte Municipal Judge Alan Brown to serve as Interim Judge for the Magistrate Court, Judge Pestak’s retirement will officially become effective July 1. While he will be moving into a retirement phase, Judge Pestak confirmed he would continue to serve the court in a Pro-tem capacity, hearing cases in Sierra County and throughout the State when and where requested. Although previously announcing he would not be seeking re-election, Judge Pestak said his initial desire was to complete his present term, which would have ended on December 31 of this year. The Judge explained that as of the end of last year he was qualified to retire, but noted how a change in the State’s retirement….

County Poised To Move On Flood Repairs

Kingston flood

With an April 16 endorsement by Sierra County Flood Director Barry Ragsdale, the final processing of six major flood remediation projects is now proceeding. This action is anticipated to deliver approximately $3.5 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding to Sierra County’s coffers and in the coming weeks will allow the initiation of contracted work to address damage and issues related to the September 2013 floods. Sierra County Manager Mark Huntzinger confirmed the action April 17 and acknowledged the funding would be focused on six specific projects, which were identified through an assessment process involving FEMA authorities, Flood Director Ragsdale and other officials. Huntzinger said the Flood Director’s signature would now clear the way for FEMA to release the approved funds to State authorities, which would in turn allow the County to begin expending the revenues for the flood remediation projects. In a brief telephone interview April 17, Flood Director Ragsdale confirmed the aforementioned information and emphasized the overall initiative was a function of the Sierra County Flood Commission. Ragsdale noted final processing of an initial project to address portions of Animas Creek and several other sites in the adjacent area, was already complete. He said this effort served as an aid in streamlining the processing of the subsequent projects and anticipated actual work would begin in the Animas Creek area within the coming week. The Flood Director explained how the designation of numerous projects, rather than one comprehensive effort, ensured remediation efforts could be completed before the anticipated return of monsoon rains later this summer. The  initiatives included on the project worksheets now in final processing are: ….

County Tends To Fire And Flood Issues

While significant focus was placed on the Sierra County Commission’s consideration of flood mitigation contracts, topping the board’s March 18 meeting’s action items was the initiation of fire restrictions for all unincorporated areas of Sierra County. Local residents may recognize this as a yearly measure adopted when rising temperatures and spring winds combine to create the often dangerous wildfire conditions. This year, so far, most of NM has experienced less than average amounts of precipitations, prompting state authorities to implement fire restrictions earlier than usual. During the commission’s Feb. 18 session, Sierra County Sheriff Joe Baca encouraged the board to implement fire restrictions. The sheriff explained how many areas of the county were very dry and said formal measures would allow him and his deputies to begin enforcing tighter control on inappropriate activities. As commissioners addressed proposed Ordinance No. 14-001, County Attorney Dave Pato acknowledged the standard measure included time constraints relating to restrictions on the sale and use of fireworks. Because of these established time limits and the early move to implement the fire ordinance, Pato suggested commissioners omit the normally included moratorium on fireworks, section 5-D, and address it as a separate measure on a future agenda. Commission members agreed and unanimously supported a motion to initiate an immediate moratorium on open and controlled burning including trash barrel burning. Agricultural burning may st…

Candidates Sign Up For Primary

Tuesday, March 11 was sign-up day for major party candidates seeking posts in the November 4 State elections. The following is a summary of local candidates who will be vying for available posts in Sierra County, as well as some of the premier state and federal races gearing up for the June 3 party primaries and some who already are looking ahead to November. A complete list of candidates and a wealth of information relating to the 2014 election is available through the Secretary of State’s website, located at www.sos.state.nm.us.

SIERRA COUNTY POSITIONS

•County Commissioner (District 1) – Incumbent Democrat Bobby Allen is seeking another term and will be unchallenged in the June 3 party primary elections. Vying for their party’s support and to face off against Allen in November are Republicans Sherry L. Fletcher and Terry G. Taylor.

•County Commissioner (District 2) – Incumbent Democrat and current Commission Chairman Walter Armijo is term-limited in 2014. Democratic candidates Robert J. Parks and David W. Farrell will face off in the June 3 primary election and the winner will challenge sole Republican candidate Kenneth C. Lyon on the November 4 ballot…

Jail Administrator’s Contract Terminated

Following extensive closed-door executive session discussions last Tuesday afternoon, Sierra County Commissioners reconvened the board’s regular public session and voted unanimously to terminate the contract of Detention Center Administrator Curtis Cherry. As a result, County Manager Mark Huntzinger said Sierra County Sheriff Joe Baca would immediately assume administrative responsibilities for the Detention Center until a replacement for Cherry could be hired. On February 5, in response to numerous documented incidents, the Sierra County Sheriff’s Department officers and a team of law enforcement agencies executed a search warrant on the Detention Center facility. This search netted a significant amount of contraband materials from inmate cells, including controlled substances, weapons and other prohibited items. The February 5 action also resulted in a misdemeanor citation of Detention Center staff member Ryan Reese for possession of a switchblade knife. Sierra County authorities’ immediate response was to transfer three inmates, who were…

Proposed Site Of Public Service Complex

With legislative funding requests for construction of a community animal shelter now pending in Santa Fe, T-or-C City Manager Juan Fuentes introduced a plan to City Commissioners January 28, which would expand the project to include development of a “one-stop” Public Safety Complex.
In presenting the plan, Fuentes said the City’s efforts to assume ownership of the former National Guard Armory and adjacent property, the site selected as most suitable for the future animal shelter, was tentatively approved by National Guard Armory authorities.
He also told commissioners necessary steps to effect the property transfer to the City were progressing and while unable to deliver a timeline, said he was hoping the measure would be addressed by National Guard Armory Board (NGAB) members at their next quarterly meeting.
Fuentes reminded commission members of a 2012 action, in which the City entered five-year agreement providing for continued animal services from the Sierra Animal Shelter’s Dr. Danielle Dawkins, while the community proceeds with construction of a new animal shelter. He acknowledged there was still more than two years remaining in this agreement and while suggesting there would be sufficient time to complete the project, indicated the initiative must begin to move forward in the near future.
The City manager noted T-or-C received a $100,000 Senate Appropriation grant for the animal shelter project in 2013 and was requesting $750,000 from this year’s legislative appropriations.
While awaiting news of the armory property’s transfer and potential funding, Fuentes suggested commissioners consider the possibility of expanding the project to include development of a public safety complex.
Sharing details of the armory and adjacent property, the City manager said the existing maintenance building was being considered as a likely location for the future animal shelter, leaving the armory building available for other uses.
Noting the City’s animal control services function as a division of the T-or-C Police Department (TCPD) and acknowledging a desire to bring all of the department’s services under one roof, Fuentes said he felt the armory would provide functional space and a unique opportunity to accomplish this goal.
TCPD Chief Priscilla Mullins was on hand for the evening’s session and told commissioners she would be in full support of such a project, noting the armory would provide an adequate amount of space for TCPD operations. Chief Mullins also suggested the site’s centralized location could not only serve as an ideal hub for police services, but could further become a useful staging point for joint law enforcement exercises and as an emergency command post, when required.
City manager Fuentes emphasized the adjacent property would be more than adequate for future expansion and suggested the complex could provide additional space for other area law enforcement agencies.
While the City manager was not requesting any immediate action from the board, members indicated they would be likely to support the initiative. Commissioner Steve Green said he felt the development of a public safety complex at the armory site would be a good use of public funds.
In the meantime, Fuentes said City officials would be waiting to see what amount of funding might be directed to the project from the current legislative session, while also looking for the NGAB to move forward on the requested property …..

County Hits Pause On Solid Waste Plan

By Chuck Wentworth | SENTINEL

Anticipating a large turnout, commissioners shifted the meeting’s venue to the Sierra County Events Center on South Broadway, where direct pleas from at least 37 individuals called upon the board to delay their vote, set for later consideration during the regular session.

After initiating the hearing with a request of speakers to share their comments without the use of derogatory statements, commission chairman Walter Armijo began reading off names from the session’s sign in sheet in order to assure everyone in attendance was given an opportunity to address the board.

During the ensuing process commissioners were presented with a series of clear and calmly delivered statements, which….

SVH GRT Approved

By Chuck Wentworth | SENTINEL

Sierra County Commis-sioners convened a public hearing for an ordinance seeking to extend Gross Receipt Tax (GRT) funding for Sierra Vista Hospital (SVH) prior to addressing a full agenda of items during their regular session Tuesday morning, August 21.

Speaking in favor of the ordinance, SVH Chief Executive Officer (CEO) D. Rush briefly explained how the original GRT allotment was an emergency effort to bolster the hospital’s inability to fully recoup costs associated with services provided to the community. She also said the GRT revenues were important in assuring the facility remained operational through past financial difficulties.

Rush then talked about the hospital’s recent financial recovery, which she said was sufficient enough to pay off the facility’s long-standing mortgage earlier this year.

Mrs. Rush then urged commissioners to extend the GRT funding and said that if the ordinance were approved she would request that associated revenues be directed toward the construction of a “Central Plant.” She went on to explain how the hospital’s current utility plant would be insufficient to service the facility, as well as the new emergency room complex and other planned improvements. She said construction of a new central plant would ensure that the hospital’s present complex and future additions would be able to maintain full services, through planned construction in the years ahead.

There were no statements offered in opposition to the proposed ordinance.

Once into their regular session, and as they moved to consider the proposed ordinance, commissioners expressed support for the continued renovation and construction of new facilities at SVH. Chairman Walter Armijo then accepted a motion to approve the GRT extension and target funding toward development of the hospital’s new central plant. The motion was duly seconded and endorsed by a unanimous vote….

Landfill Closure Delayed/Ordinance Published

By Chuck Wentworth | SENTINEL

With a strong contingent of community residents again on hand to voice their concerns, Sierra County Commissioners approved a motion to proceed with publication of a proposed solid waste ordinance during their Tuesday, July 24 session.

Commissioners listened to a number of public comments prior to formally addressing the solid waste ordinance, which primarily expressed a continued opposition to various aspects of the county’s proposal. While some community residents acknowledged that an obviously unpopular decision on the matter would be necessary, commissioners were urged to strongly consider citizens’ statements and concerns before final action is taken.

After attending to a few items on the morning’s agenda, the board moved to address publication of the controversial measure, which would formally set the clock ticking toward a decision about whether or not to implement the proposed ordinance.

Commission members welcomed the New Mexico Environment Department’s (NMED) Solid Waste Bureau Chief Auralie Ashley-Marx to the morning’s session and invited her to outline the NMED’s position regarding the county’s solid waste management concerns.

Ashley-Marx first noted she has been working closely with officials from Sierra County and the City of T-or-C in this regard for the past three years and emphasized that the proposed ordinance should not be considered a result of “fly by night” decisions.

She then explained…….

County Postpones Action On Trash

By Chuck Wentworth | SENTINEL

Sierra County Commission Chairman Walter Armijo expressed his understanding of community concerns about a proposed solid waste rate schedule at the conclusion of a special workshop June 26. Saying it was the board’s duty to render what will undoubtedly be an unpopular decision, Armijo nonetheless sided with fellow commissioners and postponed consideration of the controversial measure.

With an imposed August 30 deadline for closure of the T-or-C municipal landfill looming, and a pressing need to define how to address solid waste management for unincorporated areas of Sierra County, members of the county commission postponed consideration of a proposed rate schedule during their regular meeting Tuesday, June 26.

The rate schedule in question is the administration’s response to what many see as a pending crisis, which will require the collection and transfer of all of Sierra County’s solid waste to operating landfills a minimum of 70-miles away. After conducting numerous public meetings and assessing available options, county authorities have proposed a plan that involves the use of standardized trash bags and monthly customer charges, which many residents feel leaves much to be desired.

During a special workshop held prior to their regular session, commissioners heard comments from more than 30 individuals. A majority of comments expressed firm objection to the county’s proposed rate schedule and solid waste collection plan. Among the concerns shared were that the rates were excessive and did not effectively assess the number of individuals residing (and generating trash) in a given household. Commissioners were told this situation would likely increase incidents of illegal dumping and burning of trash, posing further enforcement and environmental issues.

A number of other considerations and questions about the solid waste issue were expressed. Among these were why incorporated municipalities have not been included to mitigate potential fees; why the proposed schedule sets fees apparently far in excess of those imposed by numerous neighboring counties; and a concern about potential property liens for non-payment of solid waste fees.

Aside from direct objections, commissioners also heard suggestions about the need of improving recycling options, the possibility of contracting a commercial vendor to address….

County To Talk Trash

Sierra County Commissioners gather for a workshop, followed by a regular meeting Tuesday, June 26.

The workshop will focus on a discussion concerning solid waste management and is scheduled to begin 8:30 a.m. The regular meeting will follow at 10:00.

The public is invited to attend both sessions in the Sierra County Commission Chambers, 855 Van Patten.

Further details about the June 26 sessions, including copies of the agenda, are available through the county’s administrative offices, 855 Van Patten, or by phoning 894-6215.

County Focuses On Solid Waste

By Chuck Wentworth | SENTINEL

With a standing-room only crowd in attendance, Sierra County Commissioners began their June 7 regular meeting by hearing a series of public comments, a majority of which were focused on proposed plans and concerns about future solid waste management and associated fees.

In succession, 15 individual speakers expressed their views, which primarily raised questions and confirmed a strong opposition to the flat-rate solid waste fee structure previously proposed by county authorities. Commissioners heard concerns about how such fees might be implemented, and several speakers emphasized the potential detrimental effects such measures would have upon area businesses, RV parks and properties with multiple dwellings.

Commission members also heard recommendations to more vigorously pursue recycling opportunities….