County creates Alamo fire district, approves Veguita lease

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The Socorro County Commission unanimously approved a resolution to create a county fire district at Alamo during the commission’s regular meeting March 26.

Fred Hollis, county fire marshal, said the Alamo Navajo Chapter met March 20 and voted 37 to 0 to allow the Alamo Navajo School Board to act as the fiscal agent to form the new fire department.

Hollis said the State Fire Marshal wants the new fire district formed immediately because of the way funding is administered. He said the State Fire Marshal’s office does its funding calculations in May, and the fire district has to complete a year of probation before they can get state funding. Then next year when the district’s probation is finished, Hollis said they will be able to get the state funding.

Hollis explained the State Fire Marshal’s office calculates funding according to how many fire districts are in the state. If the county waits until after May to form its Alamo fire district, the state will have to redo all of its calculations.

Chairman and District 4 Commissioner Daniel Monette said he has heard nothing but positive feedback about the new fire department in Alamo.

“They’re very excited about it,” Monette said.

“They’re very excited about getting it started out there,” Hollis agreed.

Hollis said the Alamo school has a fire department, but it can’t fight fires in outlying areas. A county fire district will extend its reach.

District 5 Commissioner Juan Gutierrez said he attended the March 20 meeting in Alamo, and agreed the people there are very excited about forming the new fire district.

“I think they have about three people already on the volunteer fire department,” Gutierrez said.

Hollis said the volunteer fire department is required to have 12 volunteers, but they have a year to build up to that.

Gutierrez said Alamo has good people involved, and he thinks they will follow through with the project. He noted the county has attempted to form a volunteer fire department at Alamo before, but it didn’t pan out — but this time it looks promising.

“It’s going to fly,” Hollis said. “They’re really excited about doing it.”

Gutierrez added the Navajo Nation is planning to build a lot of homes — about 500 to begin with, and possibly thousands more throughout the entire reservation. He said the project is being held up by water issues and lack of a fire department, so establishing the fire district will help that project along.

In other business, the Socorro County Commission:

  • Approved a merchant processing agreement with Tyler Technologies.
  • Approved a lease agreement with Presbyterian Medical Services for the new Veguita Health Center, which is not yet constructed. County manager Delilah Walsh said per state statute, the county has to have a lease agreement with a health service provider first, and then work with the provider to have a facility constructed. The lease agreement states the county will not charge PMS rent since PMS will provide area residents “significant amounts of uncompensated and undercompensated health care services,” which will reduce burdens the county would otherwise have to assume.
  • Approved vendor checks.
  • Approved payroll checks.
  • Acknowledged budgeted versus actual expenditures for February. County finance director, Roberta Smith, said the detention and solid waste departments are still over budget. She said she distributed budgets electronically to all the county departments this year, and they are due back April 10. Once she looks everything over, she said the county can schedule a public budget meeting.
  • Approved the disposal of worn-out assets, including an old mobile home trailer and generator/welder from the road department, and a computer from the sheriff’s office. The resolution states the county will dispose of the items at an online auction through Public Surplus.
  • Acknowledged personnel changes, which included modest raises for county employees who completed computer training classes.
  • Announced the next regularly scheduled commission meeting, 10 a.m. April 9.