Village addresses fire department probation

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Z.W. Farnsworth was already “on the job” Monday night during Magdalena’s village meeting of the Board of Trustees. Farnsworth was formally named acting fire chief and then later gave his first report, which entailed addressing a number of items the fire department must do to come into compliance with the State Fire Marshal.

The Magdalena Fire Department is currently under probation with the state. The New Mexico Fire Marshal’s Office visited Magdalena for a routine inspection Oct. 2, 2013, and found the department “in disarray,” according to State Fire Marshal John Standefer.

Randy Barela, the fire station specialist who inspected the fire station, said even after a return visit to Magdalena on Oct. 22, the fire station was unable to produce run reports, a sufficient membership roster and training records. On Oct. 25, the state fire marshal issued a letter to the village of Magdalena notifying them the fire department was being placed under probation until the reports could be provided and the membership brought into compliance. The letter says the village may continue to utilize state funds for basic needs, such as paying utilities and fuel costs for the station, covering insurance and ensuring the fire apparatus is up to date and in working condition.

Village Trustee L. Diane Allen asked about the resources available to respond to a fire. Farnsworth said the fire station has three active volunteers, and that he is working to recruit volunteers now and address training needs.

Julian said the department has three junior firefighters, in addition to the adult volunteers, after two volunteers — James Sullivan and John Rhodes — turned in their bunker gear during the last fire department meeting. Julian also said the Socorro and Hop Canyon fire departments are on call for back-up, should Magdalena need them. Rhodes is being charged by the state of New Mexico for credit card theft and inappropriate use of the fire department credit card.

Farnsworth was appointed acting fire chief by Julian immediately after former fire chief Donna Dawson resigned Nov. 7 for medical reasons. Dawson said in her letter she will remain a volunteer to drive the firetruck and as an EMT. She is the EMS department’s only trained EMT at this time. Julian said the city is in the process of recruiting at least one additional volunteer to be trained as an EMT.

“There are three or four people interested in it (the EMT position),” Julian said. “We are working to recruit at least one and have them trained. Donna will stay on as EMT coordinator, but may not be able to make all of the calls.”

Farnsworth said in the meantime he is focusing on building the fire department’s roster and bringing the department records into compliance. He is actively seeking new volunteers, and is “looking at good things to happen.”

“We are working on all of the items on the list from the fire marshal,” Farnsworth said. “We will work as closely with them as necessary to ensure that we are in compliance.”

Farnsworth is relatively new to Magdalena, but brings several years of volunteer fire department experience with him from Colorado, where he lived previously.

Farnsworth clarified that the fire department has been in operation since the state marshal put them on probation.

“We have just been fortunate in that we haven’t had any calls,” said Farnsworth.

In other business the village board of trustees approved hiring of Aaron Laurent as the village’s new solid waste management operator. The board also approved for the new village clerk and treasurer, Jeanie Johnston, to attend the New Mexico Municipal League’s Government Finance Officers’ Association winter conference, and approved a $250 expenditure of lodger’s tax funds for a map advertisement with the Magdalena Chamber of Commerce.

The trustees approved an election resolution to hold a regular municipal election on March 4, 2014, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Positions up for election include two trustees for four-year terms and the mayor’s seat, also a four-year term. The polling place for precincts 13 and 14 will be the Magdalena Volunteer Fire Department. Absentee voting will be permitted.

The library report included an announcement that the Magdalena library had received a donation of shelving and supplies from the village of Artesia. Farnsworth is coordinating with volunteers to pick up the donation, including a new circulation counter.

When asked for the judge’s report, Johnston indicated that there was no written report, but Judge Robert Serna interjected and stated that he would begin having reports in January 2014. “We are catching up on warrants and files,” Serna reported. “The new lady (clerk) is doing a good job getting files updated.”

Trustee Barbara Baca inquired about revenue that will be generated from the cases. Serna said it wasn’t the court’s responsibility to generate revenue, to which Trustee Baca replied that the department used to bring in several hundred dollars a month but had not generated any revenue in awhile. She suggested that if the department could not pay for itself, it may have to be cut from the budget. The matter was dropped without further discussion.

Farnsworth also reported that the Masonic Lodge in Socorro was donating $400 for food for the village’s Christmas food and toy distribution. The village has a secret Santa drive where they collect new toys and food for families in need during the holidays. The village works with the school district administration to determine which families are in need of assistance, and then wraps gifts and delivers them, along with food when appropriate, to the families.