County to charge for cattle guard installation

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County Road Superintendent Marty Greenwood recommended Socorro County begin charging for new cattle guard installation, during his report to the county commissioners at their regularly scheduled meeting on Dec. 10. The county installs new cattle guards on county maintained roads when new private boundary fences are errected, and replaces existing cattle guards as needed, as part of maintaining county roads. Greenwood reported that the increase in new fences being errected in some areas is becoming costly to the county.

“It is starting to cost the county a lot of money to install cattle guards every time a new fence goes up,” Greenwood said. “Many other counties charge for this service.”

According to Greenwood’s report, it costs the county approximately $3,500 to build a cattle guard, including labor and materials, and anywhere between $3,000 and $6,000 to install. The County purchases the raw materials and builds the cattle guards much more cost effectively than they could purchase them, Greenwood said.

“The same cattle guard (as what we build) would cost about $8,500 to buy.” Greenwood said.

Greenwood said the county has recently installed seven new cattle guards and is building seven more to install. Three of those installed were for private land owners, and the county has three pending requests for new guards. The county has cleaned 90 cattle guards in the last six months, and some of those will need to be replaced over the next year. The addition of adding new cattle guards for private land owners takes more county resources.

County Commissioner Juan Gutierrez asked whether or not the commissioners had already approved an ordinance to charge for cattle guards, and Commissioner Phillip Anaya stated that he recalled an ordinance was passed earlier this year. County Manager Delilah Walsh and Greenwood later confirmed that there was an ordinance passed late last year to allow the county to charge private land owners for new cattle guard installations.

Land owners wanting to errect a fence across a county road must be issued a permit by the county to cross the county road. If 10 or more vehicles travel on the road daily, the permit requires a cattle guard be installed across the fence line. If there are fewer than 10 vehicles passing that access point per day, a gate can be installed.

“We require that new cattle guards be installed by land owners as part of the permit,” Walsh clarified. “The county can offer them the service of building and installing the cattle guard for them.”

This option will most often be more cost effective for land owners than purchasing the cattle guards elsewhere.

In other county business, Fire Marshall Fred Hollis reported that the department has upgraded its radio systems, including the purchase of a new repeater that has been installed on Capilla Peak, to help fire departments communicate with each other throughout the county. The new repeater will allow calls to be paged out to Veguita and Alamo, for example, which has not been possible up to this point.

Hollis reported that the county is filing its Community Wildfire Protection Plan with the state, which helps the county employ comprehensive prevention and protection measures against wildfires, and also helps in the county’s relationship with the Bureau of Land Managaement, the Forest Service and other agencies, as well as helping all agencies secure funding for prevention of wildfires.

He further reported that, after working with the state on unpaid reimbursements, a new coordinator in the state fire marshal’s office identified a backlog of reimbursement requests from Socorro County. The reimbursements are now being paid. These reimbursements cover expenses such as school presentations and other educational efforts.

Senior Center director Lewis Auerbach reported that the three county senior centers – in Socorro, Alamo and Veguita – served Thanksgiving dinners to 195 people this year. This number was up from the 150 served last year.

Auerbach also reported that, thanks to a Walmart grant, they are doing more to promote hunger issues among the elderly, and signing up more people for home delivered meals. Auerbach also noted that the center will change its delivery dates to the Magdalena senior center in order to accommodate a request from a senior in the village who needs help with transportation for dialysis two days a week.

County Manager Delilah Walsh’s report included the hiring of David Livingstone as the new FEMA coordinator. Livingstone comes highly qualified and with over 10 years’ experience working with FEMA.

Other reports included County Extension Service, announcing a 4-H Council meeting on Dec. 11, a banquet the 3rd or 4th week of January, an adult forum for volunteers on January 10, and a full-scale emergency preparedness training exercise planned with other agencies, such as the New Mexico Department of Agriculture and the Livestock Board, scheduled for March 2014; Celeste Griego, Executive Assistant/Liaison Officer, reported that the literacy program has hosted two trainings and trained 18 new volunteers.

Evangel Maldanado announced that the detention center has hired two new employees, and still has one vacancy to fill. He also reported the detention center is at capacity and they will be shipping some inmates out this month.

The commissioners approved vendor checks totaling $971,689.94 and payroll totaling $178,966.43.

The commissioners receeded to executive session for the last approximate half hour of the meeting to discuss personnel issues and the threat of a pending lawsuit. Regular session was reconvened at 11:25 a.m. and Commissioner Daniel Monette reported that no decisions were made in executive session and the meeting was promptly adjourned.