Talon News - Good Local News


David Edward Albright


Susan Palko-Schraa Cedar Hill resident, Addresses County Commission

With detailed reports from County Fire Chief Daugherty, Mike Berve, AirCare and Trauma Manager for San Juan Regional Medical Center and Warren Unsicker, Four Corners Economic Development CEO, the July 10 meeting was the longest in recent months. Other ‘New Business’ items included: Commission meeting schedule for August, County Ordinance No. 102---known as, ‘Right to Work Ordinance, and an update of the Animas River Truss Bridge by County Public Works Superintendent, Fran Fillerup.

A ‘New Mexico Association of Counties 2018 Risk Awareness Program Award, presented by Mike Stark, County Chief Operations Officer, was given to County Safety Manager, Stewart Logan and Risk Manager, Kristi Galloway. Victoria Edwards presented the ‘Indigent Hospital Claims Board’ request of funding for 116 claims, totaling $69, 034.13., which was quickly approved. The ‘Consent Agenda’ included: FY Budget Adjustments, ‘Agreement with Sandovol County Authorizing DWI and Incarceration Services, ‘Local Government Road Fund Award/Participation and ‘San Juan Regional Medical Center Emergency Department Renovations’. It was approved without discussion.

‘Old Business’, handled by County Attorney Doug Echols, was the ‘Resolution Establishing Salaries of Newly-Elected Employees, which had been tabled at last meeting. It will affect the Sheriff and two Commissioners, Assessor and the Probate Judge on January 1, 2019. Echols said, if approved, it would affect the budget by $19,127.30. Commissioner Crowley expressed a concern with “retaining quality employees at their current pay”---relative to the market, and Chairman McDaniels said her previous concern was not having a full Commission. Chairman Charley was absent, but will not be affected by the motion. Echols said it had been four years since these positions had received a raise. “It would be a disservice to the Sheriff if we don’t pass this”, Chairman Pro Tem Fortner said, as he directed a question to the Under Sheriff about the number of people he supervises. All voiced approval.

Chairman McDaniels welcomed to the podium, Chief Daugherty, asking if “he had any good news for us”. He said, “I come today with some quivers of hope...but, as of now, as you can see---our drought condition has not improved”, as he referred to the data passed to the Commission. He said, thanking the Commission and the citizens, regarding the 4th of July, that “it was uneventful---from a fire perspective and we were about a fifth of what we normally run---on fireworks fires”. He credited the “prevention message to the public, the burn ban and the smoke pouring into the valley everyday from the 416 Fire”---to bring awareness of the fire threat. The outlook for July does offer a “glimmer of hope” for diminished fire danger---and “hopefully the monsoons will set up pretty soon”. There were 25 lightning-caused fires over the weekend. One fire near Navajo Dam, even with rainfall one hour prior, nearly got out of hand, so he recommended to “hold tight on the Fire Ban”. Conditions are still so dry that “some junipers are dying”.

Mike Berve gave statistics on the ‘AirCare Program’, stating that the helicopter and airplane owned by the hospital have operational costs of nearly $6 million annually and the County budget spent is about $309 thousand. He stated that the average cost per helicopter flight is $17,855; the average airplane flight is over 200 miles with a cost to the patient of over $22 thousand. About 850-900 patients are flown per year, with an average of 70% being county residents. The average flight is 84 miles, taking patients to other facilities or bringing them to San Juan Regional Medical Center. The program started 25 years ago when emergency services were not consolidated, but now operates under the Communications Authority and closely with all emergency agencies. Berve presented data that showed a high efficiency for their service---compared to national averages for profit and non-profit operations. He said, “this is a very hazardous occupation, so we take safety as our priority...and the level of training and expertise for a medical crew is very important”. He described the vast amount of specialized medical equipment---with it’s much higher cost---for AirCare application.

Unsicker’s powerpoint presentation covered diverse areas of focus for economic development including: real estate, the oil/gas industry, efforts to attract outdoor recreation manufacturers and promote that industry and downtown revitalization of Farmington and Aztec. Their new full-time employee, Sally Burbridge (former Aztec mayor) will focus on outdoor recreation, agriculture and other industry sectors. More welders are needed---he said Pesco continues to expand and hire. “Home sales are actually pretty steady---we’ve had 900 over the past twelve months”, he stated. He attended the Calgary Oil and Gas Show, one of his board members attended the SNAXPO (snack food industry) and Unsicker mentioned the push to help NAPI attract a potato chip manufacturer. He listed transportation/logistics, a nearly-completed ‘Rail Study’, airport/commercial and freight, aerospace, petrochemical industry, tourism, and the retirement community---as more areas of potential growth. Commissioner Crowley asked about their efforts to attract the film industry, which the CEO said they were also seeking.

Echols explained, regarding the ‘Intent to Adopt-Right to Work Ordinance, that four New Mexico counties have adopted it, and that Commissioner Crowley had asked that the Sandovol County Ordinance---be mirrored---for consideration here. On August 7, at 4pm, the SJC will hold a Public Hearing to further study the issue. The essence of the law would be that no employee is required to join a labor union, but they have that choice. The public can read the ordinance on the SJC website or view it at the County Clerks office in Aztec. The Commission approved the measure.

Regarding an ongoing ‘San JuanCounty Survey-Growth Management Plan, Stark said, “we really do want citizen feedback”. It can be filled out on the County website. County Clerk, Tanya Shelby, reported that her office will conduct an election recount on behalf of, and paid for, by the Libertarian Party---regarding write-in candidates for governor and lieutenant governor.

Susan Palko-Schraa, Cedar Hill resident, took the opportunity to thank the Commission for “keeping the Cedar Hill Bridge a question and a consideration”. She posed questions about cost of redoing the bridge---historically and about the possibility of a smaller, pedestrian bridge.


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