Members of the public again showed up to excoriate Edgewood’s mayor and two of its councilors, spurred to action by a group calling itself CORE, “Citizens for an Open and Responsible Edgewood.”
The main item on the agenda to be considered was an update of the town’s Comprehensive Plan, a guiding document for town government and staff with no force of law.
The town contracted with the Mid-Region Council of Governments to update its most recent plan, now 11 years old.
Public comment on general matters came before that, and spilled over into that discussion as well, with members of the public highly critical of the way the meeting was run. Several members of the audience catcalled mayor John Bassett and councilors Linda Holle and John Abrams, while lavishing praise on councilors Sherry Abraham and Audrey Jaramillo.
The town sets a limit of 2 minutes for public comment, and that rapidly became cause for ire when the mayor would not allow speakers to give their time to another speaker. Bassett defended the move, saying, “We don’t let one person run on and on.”
Jerry Powers of CORE questioned how much the town has spent on attorneys as Edgewood seeks a dollar value for that Epcor Water might be worth. The town has declared its intention to explore taking the water company over through eminent domain.
Others questioned why the town sewer line is planned down West Church Road, and again accused the mayor of enriching his family.
One person after another approached the podium, accusing the mayor, Holle and Abrams of having an “insolent attitude” and alleging “shameful corruption and debauchery; of “lies, deception and a screwed-up moral compass; and of not wanting to hear from the public.
When the topic turned to the Comprehensive Plan, both Abraham and Jaramillo were critical of several items.
Abraham pointed out one map that had inadvertently been placed twice, and said the map of the sewer “was not exactly what I was looking for,” saying she wanted it to show where the sewer lines themselves are, not just the coverage area.
She questioned the town’s arrangement with Santa Fe County about the Equestrian Center. The county built it and the town initially entered an agreement to maintain it. That agreement expired in 2012, according to town clerk Juan Torres.
This led to an extended conversation about the Equestrian Center and other public lands the town hopes to purchase, along with criticism of the process used to update the Comprehensive Plan.
Jaramillo said the sewer project was “nepotism and a tainted process,” and that the service area map was not relevant.
Members of the public also spoke about the Comprehensive Plan, with Tom McGill, who started CORE, saying that when he attended public meetings on the plan he felt frustrated and like he was not listened to.
Jerry Powers, another member of the group, said he had a similar experience.
Karen Kiser said she had attended the meetings and felt “distinctly unwelcome,” and said she didn’t think the group working on synthesizing public comment into the document were neutral.
Bassett said meetings he had gone to were well-attended, and defended the town’s process, saying that most of what was in the plan was already there, having been approved 11 years ago.
The agenda then moved to those items reserved for the council and mayor to address any topic.
Jaramillo said the biggest issue is “Church and Main,” the location of the sewer line, saying it is a violation of the anti-donation clause in the state constitution, which prohibits the government from financially benefitting a private individual or entity.
Abraham again brought up her desire to add an agenda item for old business, and to explore head microphones so the audience can hear the council better.
She again asked what the old town hall was listed for, and Bassett said it is listed for $210,000. She asked if the sewer was linked into the police station or community center yet, and Bassett said no, but it is still planned.
Abrams started by saying, “I appreciate the public thrashing, everyone,” saying little more.
Holle gave a report for the North Central Regional Transit District; she sits on that board representing Edgewood. The NCRTD was given an award for its accounting practices.
She also reported that veterans can ride free and seniors can ride free on Wednesdays in 2020.
Holle also mentioned that CNM is partnering with First Choice to bring two classes to Edgewood, with enough interest. One class is in the medical field, and the other is in the veterinary field.
Police chief Ron Crow announced the third Citizens Academy, a 10-week course open to the public, to learn about public safety in Edgewood. Space is limited, and applications may be made to the police department.
The mayor, when it was his turn to speak on any topic, again defended the town’s actions with respect to Epcor and the sewer.
He again called Jaramillo a liar. Bassett pointed to meeting minutes showing the proposed route of the sewer through property owned by his family in which he disclosed that interest in the planning stages; Jaramillo voted to approve it.
“I don’t think a lot of good is being done by coming out here and hammering on us,” Bassett said, calling it “manufactured outrage over every little thing,” and adding, “These are all things we’ve been working on for a long time.”
Bassett also accused the CORE group of being funded by Epcor Water.
McGill told The Independent Dec. 5 that he is funding for the group, and said the only Epcor representative he is in contact is the local manager, Tom Torres.
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 email@example.com.