Village, school at odds over water hookup

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After a contentious discussion, the Magdalena Village Board of Trustees voted to table a request from Magdalena Schools superintendent Mike Chambers to fulfill an agreement previously made by the board on April 14.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) originally approved by the board concerned the school's well and the installation of a double-valve hookup which could allow each entity – the school and the municipality – to share water if the need arose. At that April meeting, Montoya said he would have the MOU prepared and sent to the school.

Chambers said it has been almost four months and he is still waiting for the document, and that he "was, quite frankly, perplexed as to why it was taking so long."

"I'd like to ask this council if they've taken a vote to rescind that action, or if there's another reason why I haven't been able to get that fulfilled," Chambers said.

Montoya said he hadn't prepared the MOU because, "I have to research everything myself. I'm a researcher and through my research talking with Justin King today, with the lawyer, our public works, former clerk Jeanie, it seems to be a detriment to the town, if you will, with the well."

The school is the largest user of municipal water and therefore accounts for a large part of the village's revenue.

"The well, though, will cost us. We will lose revenue from the school which will put us down a lot, which will cut services," Montoya said.

Chambers responded by asking, "Are you aware, is the rest of the council aware, that we've been paying for using 80,000 gallons every month for the last seven years because the meters at the school have been broken?"

"That's something we've been working on. Getting that repaired. We want that repaired," Montoya said.

Chambers added the school had to go forward with its separate water well project "no matter what."

"The bottom line … we will not be paying water fees after (the school has its own well)," he said. "That's going to happen regardless of this decision or not. But what will not happen is that our well will not be available in the event that the city well fails."

Trustee Tom Barrington suggested tabling the item to give all parties time to review the previous agenda item.

"Mr. Barrington, I appreciate that but I'm not interested in that at this time. Either we move forward or we don't," Chambers said. "I've got to move on. I've got timelines I have to meet."

He added he needed to start construction before the funds disappear, with or without the MOU.

"I also have a board that I work with," Chambers said. "I feel the school has been ultra cooperative in the past with the city and has had no problem with opening the school facility for use by the community."

He said the school would be severing ties with the village government because Montoya had not followed through with what the council approved three months ago.

He said the school's well project has already been approved by the Public Schools Facility Authority, and the final design would be pending approval by the Office of the State Engineer.

"I am informing the PSFA that the village is unwilling to cooperate," Chambers told El Defensor Chieftain. "That is the group we initially went to and is the funding source for this project. This won't stop our original plan and (the village) is going to lose out."

He said he was "flabbergasted" at the board's reversal.

The Board of Trustees is still short one member as Montoya continues his search for a viable candidate.

Barbara Baca, whose term ends in 2016, resigned from the board seven weeks ago on June 23. Montoya said although he has received three letters of intent from prospective appointees, he is still waiting to make a decision.

Barrington asked whether or not the letters were a matter of public record. "Should we discuss as to why they are not being recommended?" Barrington said. "Would that be proper? I don't know."

Montoya said he preferred not to release the names because he was still in the process of speaking with the prospective appointees. He said the arguments for or against making the names public "outweigh each other."

During the public comment section of the meeting Montoya clarified his reasoning.

"We would like to have some diversity on the board. I think we could use some minority representation. We could use some different viewpoints," he said.

Montoya added more diversity would allow the board to better represent the community, "more than just age, demographics or background, if you will."

In the meantime, those seeking to fill the vacant village trustee position are asked to submit a letter of intent to the mayor at Village Hall, 108 N. Main Street.

In other business:

Paul Silva, administrator of the Magdalena Area Health Center, told the board Nurse Practitioner Thomasine Sanguedolche has submitted her resignation and her last day will be Oct. 3. He said a new candidate for the position has been found and will be visiting the clinic later this month. Sanguedolche has been the provider at the the clinic for three years.

The board tabled an agenda item that would compensate former village clerk Rita Broaddus for the time she spent helping out current village Clerk Stephanie Finch. At issue was the possibility of the village violating the state's anti-donation clause.

After a public hearing, the board chose to postpone making a decision on the Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan for fiscal year 2016. The ICIP will appear on the next meeting's agenda on Monday, Aug. 25.