Woolf Recognized For Service On SSWCD Board


The New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts recently recognized Sierra County rancher, Ronnie Woolf, for his service and commitment to conservation within his community…

City Weed & Water Rules

Drought map

Due to the recent rainfall in Truth or Consequences, the mustard weeds have taken over many individual’s yards. Other annual weeds will be following.
It is up to the citizens of Truth or Consequences to maintain their properties/easements/and their part of the alleyway of weeds that are over twelve inches in height as stated in the city ordinance. The T-or-C Code Compliance Officer will notify individuals who are in violation by mail. Please remove all weeds in a time…

Local Utility Scam Alert

The City of Truth or Conse-quences Police Department is advising residents in the area, as well as all of Sierra County, to be aware of a possible scam targeting Sierra Electric Co-Op and T-or-C utility customers.
The T-or-C Utility Dept. reported Thursday morning, April 30 several Sierra Electric Co-Op customers had received letters and/or telephone calls stating their services were going to be disconnected if payment was not made…

Roadside Fire East of Cuchillo

Winston volunteer fireman, Jim Jones, came upon the scene of a roadside fire Tuesday, Sept. 2 at 1:15 p.m. Jones was on his way to Truth or Consequences in his personal vehicle when he heard the call come over his radio. Monticello Fire Department was called and Jones stayed on scene to assist. Several hay bales had fallen from a vehicle just east of Cuchillo at mile marker 4…


Murder Charge Dismissed Against 1 Chavez

The murder charge filed against Deann Chavez has been dismissed by the Seventh Judi-cial District Attorney’s office. Paperwork filed at the Sierra County Magistrate Court on July 14, the same day as the Chavez’ preliminary hearing was scheduled for reflect the attorney’s office “nolle prosequi” decision. Deann Chavez, and her husband Frank Chavez, were arrested June 21, each on a charge of murder and tampering with evidence, following the shooting death of Jeff Martin on Las Palomas Canyon Road around 11 a.m. From documents filed in court, and all the witnesses who were in the area or had passed by, it showed that Deann was in a truck pulling a trailer ahead of her husband, Frank, who was witnessed stopped in the road arguing with Martin. Additionally, court records indicated that the blood splatter evidence was located on the front of the tractor that Frank was admittedly driving when the shooting took place…


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: ….

What Kind Of Tourist Will Virgin Galactic Bring To Our Doorstep?

With Virgin Galactic (VG) now aiming for its first launch by the end of this year, there are some entrepreneurial opportunities currently available for Sierra County residents. Virgin Galactic’s Carolyn Wincer, head of travel and tourism development, and Brandon Rettke, a Category manager/hospitality, both spoke to about 50 local residents who attended a March 27 meeting designed to inform potential entrepreneurs of the amenities VG staff, space tourists and their guests need. The first launch is planned for later this year, but could be postponed for further testing. However, Wincer said the company is moving forward in preparation for the planned flights that will take place at Spaceport America (SA). “We are on the home stretch,” said Wincer. “Right now we are finishing the interior of the gateway (its facilities at SA) and will begin moving into the building by mid-summer.” According to Wincer, 700 people have paid deposits to take a space flight, but at six (including two pilots) per flight it will take a long time for these to be completed. So, the company is making immediate plans for the first 85 who signed up. As the flights progress more than one rocket could be launched and eventually it hopes to be making at least two launches a month. “It’s important for the experience of the ‘pioneering team,’ the first 85 customers, to be a memorable one and for us to ensure it is safe – that we get it right,” she said……

Transforming Sierra County Into An Adventure Destination

Tourism Photo

Cuchillo resident LeRoy Henderson was in his yard last winter when a couple of out-of-state elk hunters drove into his driveway to inquire if an antique truck he had was for sale. After telling them no, Henderson said they asked him “What is there to do around here — is there someone we can hire to take us on some hikes or sightseeing tours?” The two men had paid thousands of dollars to spend a week hunting elk in the nearby Gila National Forest, and after bagging their limit on day one were looking for some adventure nearby, they said. Sierra County residents know there is an abundance of adventurous activities within a day’s drive, but for an out-of-town visitor who ends up here without a guide to direct them to these……

Flood Damage Team Completes Assessments


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.

Sierra County Flooded

pulled from mud

When weeklong rains culminated in a deluge on Friday, September 13, it left creeks roaring out of banks, people stranded along roads and low-lying drainages, and two people dead in Sierra County. An unusually wet monsoon season this summer was already leading to above-average rainfalls, but a storm that stalled over the area from September 8-13 brought a steady and sometimes heavy rainfall over a widespread area. According to Greg Lundeen, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in El Paso, rainfall record keeping for the region goes back to 1951, while weather temperature records go back further. The total 2013 monthly rainfall (so far) for this area is 5.89 inches (September 1-16), whereas in 2012 it was .35 inches, although different areas of the county received up to 10 inches overall during the duration of the storm. The highest daily totals were from September 12 (1.26 inches) and September 13 (3.28 inches) recorded at a NWS Cooperative Climate Station at the T-or-C airport. At KCHS, another official record keeping station for the area, the rainfall measured 1.9 inches on September 12 and 2.04 inches on September 13. The record-breaking rainfall shattered the 5.1-inch record from 1975. According to Bureau of Reclamation Resource Management Specialist Brent Tanzy, Elephant Butte Lake held about 93,000 acre-feet on September 11, and by Tuesday an additional 29,400 acre-feet had been added (a 31-percent increase) for a total of 122,700. Caballo Lake gained another 25,200 acre-feet. An acre-foot holds about 326,000 gallons, or enough to cover an acre to a depth of one foot with water. Tanzy said Elephant Butte experienced a 5-foot vertical rise, and Caballo a 10-foot vertical rise during the storm. One of the hardest-hit areas was along Ash Canyon, near Elephant Butte Dam. Department of Transportation (DOT) officials closed the road after water overran and damaged the roadbed there Thursday. The water was so powerful that DOT officials stayed in the area to prevent drivers from going around the barriers placed to keep them off the road. But it was too late for one man. TRAGEDY The body of Steven Elsley, 53, was removed from his rental car on Saturday, after a hiker found all but the hood of the vehicle buried under sand and boulders. State Police Sgt. Emmanuel Gutierrez said investigators believe Elsley, of Phoenix, Arizona, died after his car was washed from the road and carried nearly one mile down the ravine. New Mexico Spaceport America Public Information Officer David Wilson confirmed Monday that Elsley was a subcontractor for the primary contractor, Summit West, and was providing work on the terminal hangar facility. Bobbi …..


Kingston Area Threatened With Floods

Kingston flood

Up to three inches of rain hit the Kingston area on Sunday, August 4, with flooding occurring at the Kingston Campground (off NM 152) where Middle Percha Creek is located north of the campground running in a west to east direction. The Kingston Campground was basically washed away with lots of debris at the site, and a picnic table was also washed away. The nearly black, muddy water was filled with logs and other debris due to runoff from the Silver Fire burn scar. In Kingston, flows were high and some damage occurred to fences, bridges, and porches located along Percha Creek. Residents are still evaluating damages and loss of property due to the flooding. No flooding occurred in Hillsboro.

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….

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….

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….

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….

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…..”