City meeting slows from lack of attorney

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The Socorro City Council had the city's franchise agreement with Socorro Electric Cooperative on its Sept. 3 meeting agenda, but the item was not discussed for lack of an attorney.

The item was first on the list after the city's infrastructure capital improvement plan public forum, but the council moved it down on the list since the city's attorney was not present.

No materials related to the franchise agreement were included with the city's agenda packet.

Mayor Ravi Bhasker said the item could be discussed during an executive session, but the city preferred to discuss it openly before the public. He said the city's attorney, Nann Winter, was on her way from Albuquerque.

When the council went through all the discussion/deliberation agenda items and the attorney still had not appeared, Bhasker suggested the city hear department director reports and hope the attorney would arrive by 7 p.m.

The attorney still had not appeared by the end of the department reports, so Bhasker apologized to the co-op representatives who had come to the meeting.

"Whenever you are ready to discuss this franchise, please let us know and we'll do everything that we can to bring this to a happy conclusion," Luis Aguilar, president of the co-op Board of Trustees, said.

"Absolutely, and obviously it's for the consumers," Bhasker said. "And, again, we wanted to do it in public and make sure that nothing's done that's not accessible to the public as far as what we're talking about. I think that's important also."

Aguilar said he totally agreed with the mayor.

"All we want is complete transparency," he said. "We appreciate it."

Aguilar then asked about the co-op's use of Finley Gym on Nov. 16. Bhasker said although the meeting is only two hours, the city must charge full price because they have to set up the gym for the meeting and take everything down afterward.

City Clerk Pat Salome said the co-op franchise agreement requires the council to pass an ordinance after terms are discussed between the council and the co-op board. He said passing the ordinance will entail a public hearing, as required by the state in the ordinance process.

Aguilar said once an agreement is reached with the city, the full co-op board will have to vote on it.

Prescilla Mauldin, co-op board vice president, and co-op manager Joseph Herrera were also present, and Aguilar introduced them in case anyone did not know them.

Bhasker said the city will call the attorney next time and confirm she is coming.

In other business, the City Council:

• Agreed to be the fiscal agent for a McCune Foundation grant. Al Smoake wants to apply for the $10,000 grant to purchase a new kettle for the Socorro Community Kitchen.

• Approved first reading of an ordinance to sell 42 acres west of Interstate 25 near the Lemitar exit to Durkin Diesel Specialty LLC. Salome said the city will hold a public hearing for the proposed sale during the council's first meeting in October.

• Approved the transfer of ownership of the liquor license for John Brooks Supermart to accommodate a new stockholder.

• Approved a memorandum of agreement with Socorro County to exchange $40,000 in detention center funds for $40,000 in EMS funds. The MOA explains the county has $40,000 earmarked for EMS, yet doesn't have an EMS program, while the city has $40,000 earmarked for detention, yet doesn't have a detention center, so they exchange the funding. The Socorro County Commission approved the same MOA during its Aug. 13 meeting.

• Awarded an airport project bid to Maxwell Asphalt of Salt Lake City, Utah, for pavement maintenance on the runway. The bid was approved unanimously except for councilors Olguin and Pargas, who were absent, and Gordon Hicks, who voted against it because he preferred awarding the contract to a local business. Maxwell had the lowest bid by about $10,000.

• Approved an amendment to the engineering agreement with Dennis Engineering for the Hope Farms wastewater expansion project. City finance director Mable Gonzales said this will allow the city to go out for bid and enter the construction phase. Lloyd Martinez said the project will bring city wastewater service to residences from the corner of Otero Avenue and Hope Farms Road south as far as $1.2 million in funds will take the project, which the city won't know until construction is actually bid for the project.

• Set up a rodeo arena reserve fund. Gonzales said setting up the special fund was required as part of the loan agreement with the New Mexico Finance Authority.