County declares another disaster

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The Socorro County Commission approved another emergency disaster declaration during its regular meeting Sept. 24.

On Sept. 10 the commission approved a similar declaration for the period of July 23-28. A news release posted Sept. 30 to the Federal Emergency Management Agency website states President Barak Obama declared a disaster for New Mexico for July 23-28. The president's declaration makes federal funding available on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and flood cleanup/repairs in Bernalillo, Colfax, Luna, Sandoval and Socorro counties, as well as the Cochiti, Kewa (Santa Domingo), San Felipe and Sandia pueblos.

The Sept. 24 declaration covers Sept. 9-19, which county Manager Delilah Walsh observed was a time of extensive rain damage to roads, cattle guards and irrigation ditches in the county. The declaration is modeled after the governor's declaration, and nine other counties had already declared as of Sept. 24.

Walsh said county staff have met with FEMA on preliminary damage assessment. FEMA is doing assessment totals for the state to decide whether to recommend the president declare a federal disaster. Once the president approves the September flooding as a federal disaster, the county can apply for FEMA funds.

Marty Greenwood, road department superintendent, said between the rains in July and those in September, the county is probably looking at over $2 million in damage to roads. His department is just trying to get all the roads open for now so people can drive on them, although some residents have expressed irritation that the department doesn't spend more time on certain roads.

"My priority right now is to get all the roads opened up where at least people can get in and out, and then we'll come back and start doing some repairs on them," Greenwood said.

"I would agree with that," District IV Commissioner Daniel Monette said.

District I Commissioner Pauline Jaramillo asked about drainage on a road in Lemitar. She said anytime it rains the water pools up on the road and stays there, not just during extreme events like July and September.

Greenwood said the county has a drainage plan for that road — Road 91 — and the overall project will cost about $13 million. He said several arroyos feed into that area and there is nowhere for all the water to go.

"Until we get some funding … I don't know really what we can do," Greenwood said.

Greenwood said the same problem is prevalent throughout the river valley. He said the county is not big enough to do all the flood control, and the federal government will have to help.

Walsh said the county has done the drainage study and just applied for Water Trust Board money Sept. 20 to fund Phase III of the county's flood control, addressing a large arroyo in the area. If that funding is approved, it will help alleviate pooling on Road 91.

Greenwood said it will cost a lot of money to fix the drainage problem on Road 91. He said the water stays in the middle of the road because surrounding property owners have built dikes to protect their areas. The dikes have been there so many years Greenwood doubted the county could legally have them removed.

During her manager's report, Walsh commended road department staff for their hard work to get roads open. She added county staff wants to "go above and beyond" to help people, but they can't legally use county resources to improve private properties.

Walsh said the Red Cross has been very responsive in helping flood victims get food, get water and do cleanup. She strongly encouraged everyone to donate to the Red Cross.

In other business, the County Commission:

• Resolved to support the New Mexico Association of Counties' 2014 legislative priorities, which include amending state law to: authorize county treasurers to receive delinquent property tax payments; clarify responsibilities of county treasurers and the state Property Tax Division regarding delinquent property tax listings; require liens to state the notice of lien was sent to the property owner; support Medicaid benefits suspension rather than termination when a person is jailed; increase existing county local option gross receipts tax for county jails; provide for a more equitable, transparent and understandable property tax system; and provide for disclosure of sales data for real estate.

• Adopted an official county seal.

• Approved first publication of an ordinance to get a loan through the New Mexico Finance Authority to build classrooms for Cottonwood Valley Charter School. Walsh noted a public hearing will be required before final approval, and the classrooms would be installed over the summer.

• Tabled the county's infrastructure capital improvement plan until Oct. 8. Walsh said she wasn't able to finish the ICIP as she was busy with flooding issues in the county, but the state Department of Finance and Administration granted the county an extension.

• Approved a lease/purchase agreement for two dump trucks from Wagner for the road department. Walsh said since it is a lease/purchase agreement, the county can turn the trucks back over to Wagner if FEMA funding doesn't come in as expected in March.

• Proclaimed Oct. 6-12 as 4-H Week.

• Approved a disposition of vehicles and equipment listing items outdated or no longer used.

• Approved an agreement with Dennis Engineering to start drainage improvements on Bosquecito Road.

• Approved vendor checks from Sept. 12-19.

• Approved payroll for Sept. 18.