County may get disaster funds

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Socorro County has started the process of getting disaster relief funds to pay for repairs on infrastructure damaged by heavy rains this summer.

During its regular meeting Sept. 10, the Socorro County Commission approved an emergency/disaster declaration for the period of July 23-28. County Manager Delilah Walsh said the declaration is the county's first step to qualify for state and federal disaster relief funds through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The county's declaration mirrors Gov. Susana Martinez's state disaster declaration.

Jerry Wheeler, the county's chief deputy fire marshal, said July 23-28 is the same time period listed on the governor's declaration. He said the bulk of the serious storms started July 23.

On July 26 a major storm came through Albuquerque, plus another came from the west side of the Sierra Ladrones and the two storms converged at the county line, dropping 3 to 4 inches of rain in that area. Then July 28 the microblast came through that took off the roof of the County Annex building.

Fred Hollis, county fire marshal and emergency management coordinator, noted the funding is only for public infrastructure, not damage to private property. Walsh said private property owners are covered by their FEMA flood insurance.

Walsh noted during her department report the county tallied close to $1 million in rain damage and needed mitigation improvements.

During the emergency management department report, Wheeler said FEMA representatives came to the county Sept. 5 to do a preliminary disaster assessment report. They met with the county manager, road department and emergency management department gathering information to determine whether the county had incurred enough damage to meet FEMA's minimum threshold, which is $60,500.

The county met the minimum threshold, Wheeler said, so the FEMA representatives are writing their report.

FEMA is also looking at other New Mexico counties' rain damage to determine their eligibility for federal disaster relief.

In other business, the County Commission:

• Approved the certification of tax rates for 2013. Walsh clarified tax rates are set by the state Department of Finance and Administration; the county doesn't get to choose tax rate.

• Authorized the public sale of the old Sports Page building at 105 Francisco de Avondo. Walsh noted the county considered the sale during its budget hearings. She said the DFA said rent at the building needs to be increased to full market value, which is about $2,000 to $2,500 per month, as opposed to the discounted rate the county gave Russell Moses for his Bootcamp Boxing club. Walsh said before DFA said anything about the rent, Moses told Walsh he has to close his boxing club. She said as a full-time student and single father, Moses hasn't the time to continue running the club, and no one has stepped up to take over the club. Moses was going to work with the city of Socorro's recreation program to keep the club going. The resolution authorizes Walsh to start the sale process, which county attorney Adren Nance added will be a competitive process to get the best price.

• Approved vendor checks.

• Approved Sept. 4 payroll.