Locals trying to keep WSMR Trinity Site open in fall

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Delilah Walsh talked about Trinity Site during her county manager’s report at the Socorro County Commission’s regular meeting Tuesday.

Walsh said local officials and businesses are disappointed that White Sands Missile Range has canceled the second tour of Trinity Site, which is usually held in October. She noted the tour days are very big business days for San Antonio and Socorro, and local officials are looking at solutions.

It costs WSMR about $20,000 each time it opens the site for tours, Walsh said, so the base decided to have the tour just once per year due to government sequestration. She explained most of the costs are due to having to staff the tours, with base personnel monitoring the route to the site to ensure tourists don’t stray into areas they aren’t allowed.

Walsh said local officials have discussed what they might do to keep the site open twice a year, including charging admission for the tours. She said the base is not allowed to charge admission, but locals discussed having a volunteer group charge admission and provide some of the services needed for the tours.

“It has a big economic impact for San Antonio,” Walsh said.

Walsh said Socorro Chamber of Commerce director Terry Tadano is working with WSMR to explore options on what can be done to keep two annual Trinity Site tours going.

In other business, the commission:

  • Approved three resolutions for local government road funding through the state Department of Transportation. The funding is for the county arterial program, co-op program and school bus routes. County road department superintendent Marty Greenwood said the funding is for the same programs the county holds every year, and recommended the commission not turn down the funding.
  • Approved a resolution replacing the resolution the county approved in May to merge the Mountainair and El Camino Real housing authorities. Mary Ann Chavez-Lopez, director of El Camino Real Housing Authority, made a presentation to the commission during its April 23 meeting about merging the housing authorities. El Camino Real currently serves Socorro and Valencia counties; it will also serve Torrance County once the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approves the merger. County manager Delilah Walsh said Torrance County did not want to have a board member on the housing authority board, so the resolution was changed to reflect that Socorro will have four members and Los Lunas will have one member on the board.
  • Approved a memorandum of understanding with New Mexico Tech stating the county and the college will share access to their emergency operations centers. Fred Hollis, county fire marshal, said the agreement allows for either entity to run emergency services out of either EOC.
  • Approved an alternate detention housing agreement with McKinley County. Walsh mentioned Socorro County currently has 91 inmates but 55 beds in the Socorro County Detention Center; inmates are housed at the jails in several other counties, including Luna, Cibola and Grant. The county’s last bill from Luna County for housing inmates was $16,000. Walsh said McKinley County still has the lowest fees for housing inmates at $60 to $65 per day, while some counties charge $90 per inmate per day or even more.
  • Approved a general engineering services contract with Dennis Engineering Co. Walsh said the county doesn’t have an engineer on staff, but the contract with Dennis will ensure the county will have access to an engineer when needed. Greenwood added many projects the road department needs to accomplish require an engineer to sign off on them.
  • Approved vendor checks issued June 27 and July 3 totaling $203,141.37.
  • Approved payroll for June 26 totaling $172,500.64.