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.

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…

Recognizing Centenarians

Aging and Long-Term Services Cabinet Secretary Gino Rinaldi is reminding New Mexicans that the Department recognizes anyone who is celebrating their 100th birthday with a Centenarian certificate signed by Governor Susana Martinez.
In 2014, the Department presented certificates to 29 New Mexicans. In many cases, Secretary Rinaldi hand-delivered those certificates.
“New Mexico’s Centenarians are such an important part of our state. They have amazing stories to share, and have made so many contributions to this great state,” said Secretary Rinaldi…

Bill Seeks To Strip Spaceport Authority Of Some Power

A bill filed ahead of the 2015 New Mexico Legislative Session seeks to repeal the state Spaceport Authority’s (SA) power to issue bonds, as well as limit the use of proceeds of the county regional spaceport gross receipts tax.
Sen. Lee S. Cotter (R-Doña Ana), pre-filed Senate Bill 75 on Dec. 19, similar to the measure he introduced in the 2014 session, which failed passage. The 2015 session begins Jan. 21, but bills can be filed in advance.
The legislation would amend the Spaceport Regional District Act, removing provisions allowing the Spaceport Authority to issue bonds; and directing that body to use leftover tax dollars from the Sierra and Doña Ana counties to retire the debt on the bonds…

Welcomed Boost

Surrounded by a host of City officials and Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) staff members, T-or-C Mayor Sandra Whitehead happily accepted $4.4 million certificate of obligation from US Department of Agriculture Rural Development’s (USDARD) State Director Terry Brunner (to her right) during a special ceremony at the WWTP Thursday morning August 21.  The federal funds have been targeted to assist with first-phase renovations of the WWTP. City Manger Juan Fuentes said the USDARD obligation would now allow the City to proceed toward acquisition of a development loan for the project, which will in turn permit final design work to begin and allow the project to move toward a construction start up by mid-2015. In addition to this helpful boost, the USDARD State Director also delivered a $93,000 certificate to the City, to be used for the purchase of a new street sweeper…

Emotional Comments Heard At Hearing On Wolves

The atmosphere in the hours leading up to Wednesday evening’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) hearing to accept public comments on the proposed expansion to the federal Mexican Gray Wolf recovery efforts seemed somewhat festive. Earlier in the day, Aug. 13, adjacent to a U-Haul truck parked in front of the Truth or Consequences Civic Center, wolf advocates staffed two canopy-covered exhibits, and volunteers from as far away as New York distributed free T-Shirts and “Save the Lobo,” stickers, in addition to instructions detailing what to say in phone calls to New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich in support of wolf expansion. The license plates on the vehicles were from states including Utah and Colorado – places far removed from the impacts the wolf recovery has on Sierra, Grant and Catron county residents, who have much closer contact with the estimated 85 wolves now living in New Mexico and Arizona. By the time the hearing ended, many personal stories about living with the predators were anything but festive…

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…

SVH Offers Patient Portal

In compliance with the federal government’s Meaningful Use Initiative, all hospitals will soon be required to provide patients (and/or a patient-authorized user) access to his or her patient record electronically. Having this electronic access through a personal, secured email will allow patients the ability to review their medical history during stays at Sierra Vista Hospital. This access provides patients with information, including but not limited to, procedures completed, medical history, medications taken…

County Use Of Food Stamps On The Rise

The use of food stamps in Sierra County increased during the recession, assisting families in stretching their food dollars, contributing to local spending and helping spark a national debate about the future of the federal nutrition program. The proportion of Sierra County residents receiving food stamps hit 25.3 percent in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Services. That is an increase of 12.7 percentage points since 2007, the year the recession started. Across New Mexico, 20.9 percent of residents in 2011 received support from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, as the food stamp program is officially known. Nationally, 14.8 percent of the population receives SNAP benefits. Places like Sierra County, which are located outside metropolitan areas, tend to have a higher percentage of the population receiving SNAP benefits. That is because incomes are generally lower in nonmetropolitan counties. The inflation-adjusted median household income in Sierra County in 2011 was $29,563, compared to the New Mexico median of $43,600. Nationally, median household in-come was $52,306 in 2011. In 2011, residents of Sierra County received a combined $6,816,029 in SNAP benefits. The USDA reports that each $5 in SNAP benefits generates $9.20 in spending. SNAP benefits start to circulate in the economy quickly. Participants spend nearly all their food stamps within one month of receipt, according to a study by the University of New Hampshire Carsey Institute. Grocers say they feel the impact of SNAP and other USDA nutrition programs like Women, Infants and Children (WIC). “Without SNAP and WIC, we wouldn’t be able to make it,” wrote the owner of the Mill City Market in the small town of Mill City, Oregon, in a survey of rural grocers conducted by the Oregon Food Bank and Kansas State University Rural Grocery Initiative. “Owners know they have to stock the shelves to prepare for more business when SNAP benefits hit the streets,” said David Procter with the Rural Grocery Initiative. It is not just the mom-and-pop stores that see a bump from food stamp spending in small towns and rural areas. Wal-Mart reported in a recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing that a decrease in SNAP benefits last year could affect the retail giant’s bottom line. Average SNAP benefits nationally fell about $30 a month per family in November after a temporary increase that was part of the 2009 economic stimulus package. More funding decreases are on the way. This summer, Congress agreed to trim about $8 billion from SNAP over the next decade. Backers of the cuts said the program had expanded too much in recent years and …

Help Stamp Out Hunger Saturday

Stamp Out Hunger

Sat., May 10, will mark the 22nd anniversary of one of America’s great days of giving, the National Association of Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. Each year on the second Saturday in May, letter carriers across the country collect non-perishable food donations from our customers. These donations go directly to local food pantries to provide food to people in T-or-C who need our help. Our food drive’s timing is crucial. Food banks and pan-tries often receive the majority of their donations during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons. By springtime, many pantries are depleted. Participating in this year’s Letter Carrier Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive is simple. Just leave non-perishable food donations in a bag by your mailbox on Sat., May 10, and your letter carrier will do the rest.

SJOA Concerns Voiced To City Commission

City of Truth or Consequences

T-or-C Commissioners addressed a short list of action items during their February 25 regular session. Included among the evening’s decisions was approval of a renewed funding application for wastewater treatment plant upgrades, endorsement of a professional service agreement with the South Central Council of Governments and board approval of a plat revision and easement termination for a downtown property owner.

SJOA FACING MORE CUTBACKS

Aside from the aforementioned measures, the evening’s session was highlighted by a report from Sierra Joint Office on Aging (SJOA) Board President Majie Powey, who explained how a lack of sufficient funding has already resulted in program cutbacks and is forcing the organization to consider additional and service reductions in the coming months. After outlining how SJOA receives its annual funding through combination of federal, state and local sources, Powey detailed a number of important services SJOA regularly provides Sierra County’s senior population. Among these services are daily meal programs, homemaker services, caregiver support and transportation. In regards to the latter of these, Powey…

Flood Damage Team Completes Assessments

Flooding

Federal, state and local officials this past week conducted individual assessments of areas statewide that were damaged in the September flooding, including sites in Sierra County.

Earl Armstrong, a spokesperson for the Region 6 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said he spent Monday, Sept. 30, here with others, including city and county officials, as part of a Damage Assessment Team that will soon present it findings to Gov. Susana Martinez. She will then use the information to request that the federal government declare an Emergency Disaster Area, which will allow individuals in the affected areas to apply for loans through the Small Business Administration (SBA).

SBA officials were also part of the team touring the affected areas in Sierra County. Look for future reports in the Sentinel about ways to apply for these loans and any other assistance available for flood victims.

Groundwater Ownership Case Shot Down By Court

By Etta Pettijohn | For The SENTINEL

A lawsuit that could have had unprecedented implications for western states water ownership, and that some say is an attempt by the federal government to take over state water rights, has been settled by the New Mexico Appeals Court.

New Mexico Court of Appeals Judge James J. Wechsler ruled last week that the U.S. government’s water rights along the Rio Grande were limited to surface water, after considering legal briefs filed by the Elephant Butte Irrigation District, the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer and the City of Las Cruces.

The federal government had asserted claims for damages to groundwater in a natural resource damage case in northern New Mexico brought against a Chevron/Molycorp mine.

Wechsler on Aug. 1 ruled the federal government’s water rights along the lower Rio Grande were limited to the surface water, following testimony from local government and water management entities on the potential effect of the federal claim.

The U.S. Department of Justice was claiming in the lawsuit that the federal government had “superior” groundwater rights, said state Rep. Joseph Cervantes, who chaired a legislative Water ….

Alleged ‘Manipulation’ In Reintroduction of Wolves

By Etta Pettijohn | For The SENTINEL

Public Employees For Environmental Responsibility (PEER) conjures up images of noble government workers risking their livelihoods to uncover misconduct and mistreatment by big government.
On June 7 the activist organization filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Interior alleging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has permitted “political manipulation” to drive the decisions and actions in the  Reintroduction Program in New Mexico and Arizona, “severely compromising” the program.

A PEER news release alleges the FWS has allowed the number of wolves (estimated at 58) in the Blue Range Recovery Area, which includes portions of the Gila National Forest, to “threaten the population with failure.”

The group bases its allegations on the findings of a special Science and Planning Subgroup for the Wolf Recovery Team in 2010, which unanimously concluded that the, “Mexican wolf recovery required three populations of 200-350 wolves connected by corridors,” and “the best suitable habitat for reintroduction included southern Colorado and Utah.”

Along with several other environmental organizations, PEER is lobbying heavily to force the FWS to add more wolves to the recovery area, and to generally expand reintroduction efforts in the….

Rural Post Offices Ok, For Now

By Etta Pettijohn | For The SENTINEL

New Mexico lawmakers are applauding the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) reversal this week of plans to close rural offices across the state. The financially strapped USPS had announced plans to close four rural offices in Sierra County, including Monticello, Garfield, Derry and Rincon.

At a news briefing May 9, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said the agency has reversed its plan to close up to 3,700 low-revenue offices later this month, citing community opposition, and now plans to decrease staff and maintain a part-time presence in rural areas. The retail office services and private boxes will continue to be available to the public under the new plan.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman and Rep. Steve Pearce both promptly issued statements shortly after the announcement.

“Local rural voices across southern New Mexico deserve the credit for holding Washington’s feet to the fire,” said Rep. Pearce. “Closing facilities would have negatively impacted local communities and businesses, and our rural communities should not be saddled with carrying the weight of knee-jerk reactions to systematic mismanagement by…..”