Keep volunteer La Madera fire station open

Sandoval County Commissioners, State Fire Marshal, I am writing to request that Sandoval County put any vote on the proposal by Fire Chief Masterson in abeyance or just vote “NO.” The community has had NO opportunity to visit over this proposal with any elected officials in Sandoval County. In fact, we only heard about it indirectly through the internet service called Next Door exactly one week ago today. Interestingly, we found out yesterday that discussions on this proposal with the Bernalillo County Fire Chief have been going on since February. It violates the Principle of Minimum Astonishment that Chief Masterson did not at a minimum disclose his intent to our community after he openly promised that the LMVFD would not be closed a few months ago. It is beyond imagination that such a proposal would be floated without any community involvement!

While there are budget concerns, the La Madera Volunteer Fire Department is a volunteer department. It stands proud of many volunteer fire organizations in that these men and women of LMVFD have achieved excellent levels of training. So much so that our fire insurance rating is a 5, the exact same rating as Bernalillo County’s fully paid “professional” fire department. In fact, the residents of San Pedro Creek are so proud of our firefighters that we have created the Telecote auxiliary to help fund their equipment, raise money for a large water storage tank, and much more. The LMVFD has become a focus point for our community, and we annually gather there for a fund raiser and entertainment. We vote there, We have meetings there for our SPCE Board of Directors. Annually the fire crew rents a tree and brush shredder and removes fire growth from our roads. You may say that none of this will change, but you are dead wrong—we know that the facility will slowly degrade and we will have lost the critical services provided by the LMVFD and heart of our community. And we will unquestionably be less safe than we were last week before our fire volunteers were abruptly fired without cause.

If you proceed with this and vote on passage tonight, you are depriving us of the rapid response that we are now so dependent on. The LMVFD responded within 5 minutes to my chimney fire, with several firemen responding in their own vehicles. Then, within 15 minutes, I had around 15 vehicles in my driveway. With the nearest BernCo fire station on Frost Road being 9 miles away, there is absolutely no way they can respond so expeditiously. My home could have been fully involved in fire by the time the BernCo Fire Department would have even arrived. A heart attack victim could have expired. A victim of a serious wound could have bled out and died. Is this the kind of decision and result you really want to make tonight? Do you think we in the far East Mountain corner of Sandoval County will take this lightly? One single litigation over this decision could eradicate any potential monetary gains from dismantling the LMVFD.

Based on all your previous actions, we know that you are not deeply concerned about our small corner at the far reaches of Sandoval County. But we pay our taxes, and we are deeply offended by this proposal. We have had very poor prior relations with Sandoval County, but that is a response to your actions, not something we have sought. Instead, we desire your careful and appropriate considerations, especially in this time of terrible financial uncertainty. Our 18 unpaid volunteers are about as fiscally responsible as it is possible to get, especially for the level of excellence we expect of our fire and health safety.

So, please either defer any vote on this proposal this evening or vote NO and ask Chief Masterson to reinstate the LMVFD crew and properly vet his proposal with those of us in the East Mountains. Chief Masterson, even prior to your decision on his proposal, has already fired the 18 volunteers.

Thank you for your considerations and your service.

Dave Thompson, Sandia Park

 

In appreciation of a catty column

A belated thank you for Merritt Hamilton Allen, whose column last month, “Crisis At The Border” caught our eye. We enjoyed reading about the saga of her two cats, Leonidas “Leo” Butterchin and Ulysses S. “Sam” Cat. The story of their adventure along with pictures of the two reminded us of our “house of cats.”
While I politely listen to friends and neighbors revere their grandchildren with exaggerated feats of mental acuity and unbelievable physical talent that defy the laws of physics, I have seen, first hand, cats will meet or exceed the level of children in regard to grooming, creativity, scholastic ability, physical prowess, coordination, vocal communication, and much more. This, I have seen.
Chris Bleich, Edgewood

 

On capital outlay and Torrance County

As mentioned previously, as county commissioner representing Torrance County’s District 3, I am taking the opportunity to briefly inform the public regarding various issues that are of importance and interest. Before addressing the second part of the economic development theme that I described prior, I would like to make a brief interlude and elaborate upon trends in state capital outlay disbursement as I feel it will be informative to our subsequent treatment of economic development.

In New Mexico, capital outlay is state money authorized by the legislature for generally nonrecurring needs to build, improve, or equip physical property that will be used by the public and are government or publicly owned. Much of the state’s capital outlay is funded through three primary sources: general obligation bonds, severance tax bonds, and nonrecurring general fund revenue. Amounts vary from year to year and although general fund monies are the usually the most unpredictable, the performance of the state’s severance tax permanent fund has proven to be of particular interest as anyone involved in public service can recall from the insolvency crises of 2016-2017 that resulted in limited capital outlay disbursements in 2016 and none at all in 2017. Notwithstanding, it is important for rural counties to work with their legislators in leveraging these funds and advocating for needs in their communities that may not otherwise have funding sources. Typical county projects generally involve emergency services, water infrastructure, road infrastructure, senior centers, and building repairs and improvements. The individual amounts of typical projects average from about $150,000 in good years to about $25,000 during difficult years. During years of crisis such as 2017, no capital outlay may be allocated whatsoever.

From my perspective, it is essential to advocate for the collective needs of the region and it is important that all local public entities be able to apply for project funding. Therefore, the County, municipalities, land grants, and school districts, should be coordinating and helping to make each other successful. Despite the volatility of state capital outlay, in the last four years, Torrance County has seen total yearly capital outlay allocations increase upwards of $2.7 million in 2020, although this funding is most likely in grave danger as a result of the budgetary effects of COVID-19. If we look at trends in two four-year increments, 2013-2016 and 2017-2020, we find that as a region we are advocating more effectively, garnering more funding, and providing access to communities that have never requested funds. Advocating more effectively means partnering with the elected officials and governing bodies of communities and actively advocating in the common interest. If we consider the two highest producing years of each increments, we find that the average increase is nearly 60% from an average yearly production of $1.6 million during 2013-2016 to an average $2.7 million in 2017-2020. If we consider gross cumulative production, factoring in the abysmal years of 2017-2018, we still see an increase in production of 15%. The latter trend assures us that we are bringing in more money and the former trend points to more effective advocacy as a blossoming regional coalition. Furthermore, if we look at the number of public entities participating in the highest producing year each four-year increment, we find that eight public entities brought in $1.9 million in 2014, whereas twelve public entities brought in $2.7 million in 2020. Projects we have worked to fund with state capital outlay include equipment for our existing Emergency Services (EMS) Station in Willard, road equipment and shop, law enforcement equipment, as well as rural domestic water and acequia systems, county fairgrounds, community center, SWCD facilities, and senior center improvements. Of note is that four of the participating public entities are entirely new to the state capital outlay process.

The deliverable is that when it comes to state capital outlay great strides have been made regarding increased coordination, levels of funding, and stakeholder participation in the County. I believe in the adage that “coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” I believe that as a region we are off to a great start, but there is much work to be done and I would say that we are currently in the second phase of the adage where we decide as a community if we wish to stay together. For the most part, we have a dynamic and forward-thinking cadre of elected officials throughout District 3 and I believe that we have come together nicely. I look forward to strengthening the bond amongst all of the communities that I represent on the County Commission and working with our legislators to utilize state capital outlay to maximum effect. It is my firm intention that the positive trends we are experiencing with regards to state capital outlay translate into long-term benefit for the public.

Javier Sanchez, Torrance County

Leota Harriman
Leota Harriman

Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at news.ind.editor@gmail.com.