City council talks committees and transportation

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Monday's city council meeting began with the Mayor Ravi Bhasker and the re-elected councilors being sworn in, followed by an overview of the governing rules and the mayor's committee appointments — one of which reflected a key topic in the recent mayoral election.

Bhasker said one of the things that came to light in the election between himself and Councilor Michael Olguin Jr. was that there had, perhaps, been a lack attention to economic development and job creation. The mayor put together a committee focused in these two areas, and appointed Olguin, as well as Councilor Donald Monette, to it.

"Councilor Olguin has been very active and vocal about economic development and job creation," Bhasker said.

During the meeting, Chris Padilla was recognized for "20 years of dedicated service as captain of the Socorro Fire Department." Members of the department awarded him with two decorative plaques and — most importantly to Padilla — the helmet he used throughout the past two decades.

"This is what I wanted to walk away with more than anything. It means a lot to me," he said.

Padilla wasn't the only one stepping down from his position.

Following his re-appointment as Chief of the Socorro Police Department, George Van Winkle announced his retirement and thanked the council for the support they have given him throughout the years.

Bhasker said he will appoint a committee to put together an agenda detailing what is expected from the future chief of police and, more specifically, begin interviewing candidates for the position.

Following appointments, the meeting's focus shifted toward transportation.

"We are trying to start a circulation van service through the city," Bhasker said.

After approaching the transportation department about implementing a fixed route, Bhasker said they recommended a feasibility study take place.

"This will give us a little more handle on our transportation system, which appears to be doing well," Bhasker said.

The study will evaluate route possibilities and ideal pick-up times.

In other action:

• The city project at the rodeo grounds continues to progress; construction, landscaping and signs warning people not to use the industrial park as a dumping ground are all part of the outgoing work. Construction of the rodeo cover is expected to begin in May.

• The Socorro Fire Department has advertised for two openings. Current applicants will test on March 24, followed up with oral interviews. Gonzales said he hopes to have two candidates ready to hire by the middle of April.

• Paula Mertz said the Tax Help New Mexico program at New Mexico Tech "seems to be filling a need" and has been successful. She warned that if you have a business or a more detailed tax return, you may want to look elsewhere because the volunteers are only doing the simple forms.

• Chief Van Winkle said the citizens of Socorro have been much better about keeping their dogs on leashes.

• Due to the construction project at Tech, much of the school's lighting near the intersection of Leroy Place and Bullock Avenue has been cut out. The city, with help from the Socorro Electric Cooperative, put up a streetlight at the northeast corner of the intersection.

• For those concerned that the city's street sweeper is leaving a trail of rocks, Jay Santillanes said the vehicle is "on its last leg" and because the "broom doesn't have enough to pick it all up, they'll come back and make a second pass."