Deputy honored by county


A former Socorro County Sheriff’s deputy was honored during the regular Socorro County Commission meeting Oct. 8 for his compassion and help at the scene of an accident that claimed six lives from one family.

Kyle Haley, now an investigator with the 7th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, was one of the first deputies on the scene of a Sept. 1 rollover accident on U.S. Highway 60 that ultimately claimed the lives of six members of the Apachito family of Magdalena.

SCSD Deputy Ed Sweeney introduced Jessica Perez, air medic with PHI Air Medical, adding the sheriff’s department appreciates PHI’s recent efforts to help locate a missing man. He said Perez brought Haley’s good work to the department’s attention.

Perez said PHI wanted to acknowledge and thank Haley for going beyond the call of duty to help victims at the rollover accident.

“The EMS was totally taxed,” Perez said. “There were many, many victims out there and few EMS.”

Perez explained Haley helped the EMS crew and flight crew. He also helped oxygenate a patient, which she explained was an important procedure prior to advanced airway. She explained during a telephone conversation later that advanced airway means the person is put on a ventilator that “breathes for them” because the person can’t breathe on their own. An endotrachial tube is put down the patient’s throat and then attached to a mechanical ventilator.

“With his help, we were able to do an advanced airway expeditiously and get the patient in the helicopter and off the ground,” Perez said.

Commissioners presented Haley with a plaque in appreciation of his efforts. He started as a District Attorney’s Office investigator at the end of September after serving as a deputy for almost a year.

In other news from the sheriff’s department, Sweeney reported Magdalena is running short on law enforcement, with the Magdalena Marshal’s Office down to Marshal Larry Cearley and one 82-year-old deputy.

Sweeney said the sheriff’s department has recently been responding to a lot of after-hours calls in Magdalena. Over the week leading up to the commission meeting, he estimated sheriff’s deputies spent about 15 man-hours covering Magdalena, all overtime. He said sheriff’s deputies supported Magdalena on seven calls from Sept. 30 to Oct. 7.

“We’re kind of stretched thin as it is, but we are beginning to do some coverage up in Magdalena,” Sweeney said. “I’ve spoken with them, but I don’t see this clearing up anytime soon. They advertise for positions up there and are not able to fill the positions.”

Commissioner Daniel Monette asked about the county’s statutory obligation to cover Magdalena. County attorney Adren Nance said the sheriff is the chief front-line law enforcement officer of the county and has a statutory obligation to respond where needed anywhere in the county. But municipalities are also statutorily charged with providing law enforcement protection in their city limits, a requirement meant to alleviate the burden on the sheriff’s office.

“So basically if a municipality is not providing that service which they’re statutorily charged with, it would be a situation where the county should consider working out a deal with the municipality to say, ‘All right, for X amount of dollars we will cover your statutory responsibility as well,’” Nance said. “But they are concurrent responsibilities, so if everyone in the marshal’s office dropped off the face of the earth tomorrow, our sheriff’s office would still have the obligation to respond.”

He said some municipalities opt not to have their own law enforcement agency, instead contracting with their county sheriff’s office or another city for law enforcement services.

County Manager Delilah Walsh added Magdalena’s marshal shortage impacts the overtime hours worked by sheriff’s deputies. She said the county has never negotiated any cost agreement with Magdalena to provide a deputy to cover the village.

“But if it’s at the point now where they’re not meeting that obligation, perhaps we do need to have that conversation,” Walsh said.

Walsh said every entity receives law enforcement funding from the state, so the village would have funds to compensate the county in a formal arrangement.

In other department reports:

• Julie Griego, office manager at the assessor’s office, reported the office is still working on the mass reappraisal. She said protest hearings are scheduled for 1 p.m. Nov. 6 and 7 in Courtroom 3 at 7th Judicial District Court for property owners protesting their appraised values.

• Road department Superintendent Marty Greenwood said the Federal Emergency Management Agency report is not yet final for the rain damage incurred Sept. 9-15. Damage is estimated at $1.7 million so far, but the roads had not all been assessed. He said the county is focused on making roads passable so FEMA can view the damage before the county finishes the roads. He added the county will hire a part-time person just to do paperwork to get FEMA funding. Walsh said the person’s salary can be billed under FEMA funds.

• Walsh reported the county expects to break ground on the Veguita Health Center in January 2014.

In other business, the Socorro County Commission:

• Approved the county’s infrastructure capital improvement plan for 2015-2019. The top six projects, in order, are: detention center paving improvements; detention center jail management system, a software system to use at the jail that can be taken to the new facility; courthouse roof repairs; finishing of the Sabinal Community Center; a new heating and cooling system at the old jail as Walsh said the old system cost the county $20,000 in repairs last year; and turning lane improvements on U.S. Highway 60, which is also on the city of Socorro’s ICIP.

• Approved a resolution of support for the city’s application for a grant through the state EMS Fund Act and EMS Vehicle Purchase Project to buy an ambulance for the Socorro Fire Department.

• Declared an emergency to authorize pumping floodwaters to mitigate health hazards such as mosquitoes. Walsh said there are some areas on private land in the county where lakes have collected and are stagnating, and the resolution provides the county the opportunity to identify standing water health hazards and get the areas drained. The county is not violating the anti-donation clause because it is addressing a public health issue.

• Approved an agreement with Studio Southwest Architects to design the new detention center. Ron Burstein, principal architect of Studio Southwest Architects, said the firm specializes in judicial and public safety facilities. Studio Southwest designed the Lea County Detention Center in Lovington, the Sandoval County Judicial Complex in Bernalillo and more facilities around the state.

• Approved the county emergency operations plan. Walsh said it is a base plan of how local agencies will work together in an emergency, and it must also be approved by the city of Socorro and the village of Magdalena.

• Approved the land purchase agreement with the city of Socorro for the site where the county will build the new detention center in the city’s industrial park. Walsh said the city made one change to the agreement: The city wants the county to pave Enterprise and Grefco roads with asphalt rather than chip seal them. She said it will cost $100,000 more but the roads will require less maintenance in the long run.

• Approved a restraint chair usage policy for the county jail.

• Approved vendor checks for Sept. 25 through Oct. 4.

• Approved Oct. 2 payroll.