City weighs carnival concerns, unveils plans for memorial

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Concerns about the recent three-day carnival — which had set up in the empty lot just south of Alamo Gallery and Gifts on California Street — and its affects on surrounding businesses surfaced during the April 21 Socorro city council meeting.

Bodega Burger Co. owner Deborah Dean said while it’s great to have something for families and children to do, the carnival doesn’t provide parking and ends up using spaces in nearby businesses and along Sixth Street.

City Clerk Pat Salome said that in New Mexico, before setting up, carnivals must show proof of two things – that their equipment has been inspected and that they are insured. And while the carnival isn’t breaking any rules by setting up in that particular lot, he said parking has always been an issue.

“In the past, they’ve made arrangements for parking; getting people to use the parking is a different story,” he said.

Councilor Gordy Hicks said despite designated places to park, many people opt to park up front — even if that means parking in another business’ lot.

“You can take a horse to water, but you cant make ‘em drink,” he said.

Hicks said “the kids love it,” but the city has a responsibility to protect the businesses in the area.

“When businesses hurt because they don’t have any parking, that’s when the city needs to step in,” Hicks said.

In previous years, proposed ordinances have often unintentionally inferred that the city would be regulating other similar businesses, and because of this, have fallen flat.

Salome said he sees the problem as a safety issue, not a business one.

“We don’t want another layer of government restricting businesses,” he said.

Salome said the problem could be addressed with a zoning regulation, which would force the carnival to find an alternate location to set up.

“They don’t want to be so far from the public that they don’t get any business; on the other hand, they can’t be so close to the public that they cause problems,” he said.

Ideally, he said as the rodeo grounds become more attractive for these types of events, the carnival will begin using that space rather than the lot on California Street.

Chief George VanWinkle, of Socorro Police Department, suggested the possibility of putting up no-parking signs along Sixth Street — another place where carnival-goers have been leaving their vehicles.

Mayor Ravi Bhasker emphasized the importance of treating all businesses the same and said this is where, in the past, the city has come to a roadblock in establishing an ordinance.

He said whether it be construction teams working at Tech, people checking out the Friday flea market on California Street or families spending an evening at the recent carnival, motorists are constantly parking illegally – often due to convenience.

Other possible solutions discussed included asking organizers to provide traffic control or establishing a regulation for a license — likely at little to no cost — needed two weeks in advance before putting on an event such as a carnival; this would give the city time to prepare.

The mayor said for many people, the carnival is something to look forward to.

Salome said that the city doesn’t want to prohibit things that are good for community and said “balance is the key.”

Socorro Chamber of Commerce Director Deb Caldwell informed the council that the chamber put in for a Walmart grant. If awarded, the grant will garner between $2,000 to $2,500, which the chamber will use for a pilot program to help approximately 10 to 20 children attain skills —and possibly an internship — to become more employable.

Caldwell said one of the complaints the chamber often hears from local business owners is that not enough people “understand how to dress correctly, show up on time … the basics.”

Hicks stressed importance of teaching young employees to dress “where” they’re going to work. He said at his auto shop – Hick’s Body Shop and Towing – he gets people coming into work on their first day “in a suit, asking ‘What do you mean I’m going to get dirty?’”

This program aims to address these issues.

Caldwell said her hope is that, if the chamber starts small and the pilot program is successful, it can expand next year.

“I’d rather go after $25,000 than $2,500,” she said. “(Walmart manager Nico Vassol) said he’d be willing to go forward to the higher-level managers in his chain if we can prove that (the program) works.”

Caldwell said she hopes businesses will come forward and offer internships — paid or unpaid — to these children, which would give them practical job experience and help build their resumes.

“We, at the chamber, are trying to be a model of what we’re asking businesses to do, by asking for volunteers that can get some good experience working for us,” Caldwell said.

Councilor Peter Romero said he has been working to put together a memorial — projected to be completed by Veterans Day in November — at Isidro Baca Veteran’s Memorial Park, which the city recently officially obtained from the county.

Romero said it’s going to be similar to the Vietnam memorial in Washington.

“Our memorial here will list all of the fatalities of the New Mexico servicemen who were killed during the Vietnam conflict. (And) we’ll have pictures of the six servicemen from Socorro,” Romero said.

Salome said the names will be gathered using the national registry

Bhasker added that if someone steps forward from the community with a veteran’s name that should be on the memorial but isn’t, the city has the flexibility to add to the list.

• The mayor proclaimed April 1 as National Service Recognition Day, thanking those that find ways to give back to the community and volunteer their time to help Socorro grow.

• The mayor proclaimed April 21 to 25 as National Every Kid Healthy Week, emphasizing the opportunities – including the soccer program, baseball program and swim team – that Socorro offers for children.

• The council approved the final change over and acceptance of the J.O. Gallegos Road MAP Project.

• Mike Czosneck, the city’s building inspector and zoning administrator, encouraged the public to call his department if their neighbors have an abundance of weeds in their lawn, trash in their yard or anything that is disturbing the neighborhood and decreasing the value of their property. He said the process, when dealing with these issues, is as follows: identify the property owner; get an estimate from a private contractor, discern what it will cost to take care of the problem; send a letter to the owner, informing them of this cost; and give the owner 15 calendar days to address the problem themselves. If it is not taken care of, the city pays a private contractor to do the work and bills the property owner. If they fail to pay, the city puts a lien on the property.