Socorro Consolidated School District Superintendent Ron Hendrix updated the Socorro County Commission on proposed uses for two of the district’s school buildings during the commissioner meeting last week.
Pointing out the obvious – that the school district was not the purview of the county government – Hendrix said he felt the issues were important enough to the entire community to be shared with the commissioners.
“I’m here so you will know what’s going on if someone asks,” he said.
Hendrix said the issues concerned falling enrollment and the condition of the Sarracino Middle School building and Zimmerly Elementary building.
“These options are based on our projected enrollment and history of enrollment,” he said. “For whatever reason, enrollment is going down steadily; 9.3 percent most recently.”
“We’ve discussed the options we have for middle school funding from the PSFA (Public Schools Facilities Authority),” Hendrix said. “We’ve outlined the three options. In a survey we asked for opinions on each of the options.”
Sarracino Middle School renovations and the construction of a new middle school could cost as much as $17 million, it is estimated.
In the next five years, Sarracino Middle School is expected to have 277 students. Based on square footage, the middle school would have the capacity for 544.
The Board of Education closed Zimmerly Elementary in the spring because of structural issues with the foundation. Funding the reconfiguring of the school would address those issues.
“What do we want to do with Zimmerly? Fix it and put the middle school there, build a new middle school at the high school or make renovations to the middle school?” Hendrix said. “The utilization rate at the middle school is at 47 percent.”
The three options put before the board, as well as the community:
Option 1. Move the 6th grade to Parkview Elementary, and the 7th and 8th grades to a remodeled Zimmerly.
Option 2. Move the 6th grade to Parkview Elementary, and start fresh with a brand new 7th and 8th grade building on the southwest side of high school campus.
Option 3. Keep the middle school at Sarracino, which would need refurbishing.
“The Community Survey results showed that the public is more or less split evenly between the three options,” Hendrix said.
“Why bring this all up now?” he said. “PSFA has money right now to fund these projects. I’m a believer in striking when the iron is hot.”
He said the issues will again be discussed at the next Board of Education meeting December 10.
In other business:
County Fire Marshal Mark Mercer presented the revised County Wildfire Protection Plan. The plan, he said, is updated every five years. The plan reflects five strategies of the National Fire Plan: Community Fire Planning, Wildland Urban Interface Fuel Treatment, Economic Development, Forest Restoration and Community Education and Outreach.
The plan also includes a guide for homeowners on how to protect home and property from a wildland fire.
County Manager Delilah Walsh reported that she was able to conduct the final classes for The Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) students.
“This was a fine group of employees and we are hoping to move them into open positions in the County,” she said.
The Youth Conservation Corps is a program under the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department to provide a process to employ the youth in public projects. Participants learn employment skills, work ethics, as well as self-discipline and self-esteem.
She said one student was hired in the Treasurer’s office.
“I’ve already reached out to Art [Public Works Director Arthur Gonzales] to consider YCC students for his open laborer position and we are hoping they will apply for permanent positions as they become open,” Walsh said. “I will not officially terminate any of the students; they will just have zero hours as we can easily pick them up again in the next grant cycle.”
She said Finance Director Sammie Vega-Finch and Emergency Management Coordinator Fred Hollis will be requesting funding for the YCC for the month of December.
Although the salary through the grant ran out Friday, Nov. 30, Walsh said, “We would like to complete finishing work on the parks. We would use a portion of the Outreach Coordinators salary and hold that position open to offset the YCC student salaries.”
“We did receive notice that Sammie did win the next phase of the YCC grant,” she said. “Again, we will not terminate the students, they just won’t have hours until the grant cycle opens again.”
Also at the meeting, Walsh said that New Mexico’s Lieutenant Governor-Elect Howie Morales will stay on as state senator of the 28th District until Michelle Lujan-Grisham takes office as Governor.
In New Mexico, the sitting governor is responsible for appointing a legislator in an unfilled seat. The 28th District is comprised of Socorro, Catron and Grant counties.
Walsh said the Board of County Commissioners in each of the three counties can submit a candidate to be named as the new 28th District state senator.
“Therefore, the position nomination consideration will take place at your first meeting of January,” she told the commissioners. “We’ve received notice from Simon Ortiz requesting Board support. We’ve also received a letter of support from Mayor Bhasker for Madeline Hildebrandt.”
Walsh added that if each of the three counties nominates the same person, the Governor must accept it.
The commission gave its final approval for funding requests as part of the Infrastructure Capital Improvements Plan (ICIP) which will be sent to the state legislature consideration during the 2019 session.
Capital funding requests include (in order of priority):
Phase I of Socorro County Detention Center Renewable Energy Project, at $150,000
Completion of Phase IV for Sabinal Community Center, at $370,000
Socorro County Courthouse Energy Saving Improvements, at $100,000
Solid Waste Roll-off Truck and Equipment, at $200,000
Detention Center Body Scanner, at $150,000
District Attorney’s Office Remodeling, at $250,000
In addition, Socorro County also will be requesting:
• State financial and administrative support of the Cooperative Extension Service in New Mexico and Socorro County.
• State financial and administrative support of the construction of a new 7th Judicial District Attorney’s office in Socorro.
• Fair reporting of gross receipts taxes in the proper location code for public construction projects.
• Support of New Mexico Counties legislative priorities.
• Support of Health and Human Services Department’s Behavior Health Division efforts to provide behavioral health services in New Mexico County jails.
• Continued support of and increased funding for local senior centers.
• Continued support of local and rural road projects and improvements.
• Comprehensive fiscal impact analysis to Counties of any jail sentencing legislation.
• Opposition to any legislation that increases statutory requirements and/or expenses to Counties operating those jails.
• Opposition of any legislation that proposes revenue reduction to the County, adversely affects funding sources for the County or diminishes the County’s regulatory authority or local autonomy.