. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Councilor Nora Sanchez received a warm welcome Tuesday from the Artesia City Council as she put her retirement on hiatus to fill the seat left empty by the death of Councilor Jose Luis Aguilar.

Sanchez opted not to run for reelection in March after eight years on the council. Aguilar’s unexpected death Aug. 18, however, left a vacancy Mayor Phillip Burch hoped to see filled by an experienced candidate, and Sanchez obliged.

“There’s about a year­and­a­half left on the term, and typically, for somebody new that comes into a council position, it takes a full year to really catch on,” Burch told the Daily Press Wednesday. “So we’d have had a person who would just get up to speed and then the term ends.

“I was extremely pleased, therefore, that Nora indicated she would return, and the reaction and the welcome she got last night indicated the council is certainly pleased to have her back, as well, even if it’s for a short period of time.”

Sanchez’s departure in March also left the council without a female member for the first time since Burch took office in 2008.

“It really, in my mind, makes a difference,”

Burch said. “It’s kind of a soothing effect. People aren’t quite as aggressive, and that’s a good thing, plus Nora, beyond that, was just a very good councilor.

“Typical of any elected office, you don’t have the masses running in saying, ‘I want to serve,’ so we were pleased with Nora’s availability and I think it will be good for the council and the city.”

As the council settled into business Tuesday, Case No. 16­12, a preliminary plat for the Stonegate Subdivision was approved, which would establish a 222­home, four­commerciallot subdivision in the area of 26th Street and Hermosa Drive.

The approval allows the city to move forward with additional details before the subdivision is finalized.

The council received a number of visitors Tuesday, four of whom questioned the city’s decision to include first responders in its recent pay cut.

In late July, the council approved an acrossthe­board pay cut of 10 percent for city employees.

The move was made due to continued budget shortages caused by the effect of the oil and gas industry downturn on the local economy.

The visitors expressed concern the city would lose police officers and firefighters to other communities due to the cut. Danielle Brady, Artesia Fire Department administration assistant, was one of those concerned and asked the council to explore alternative means of boosting the local economy, such as the film industry and other non­traditional businesses.

The council was also addressed by Andrew Blanco, a local professional disc golf player, concerning a potential disc golf course in Artesia.

During the renovations along Eagle Draw, a course had been discussed as a potential addition.

However, the floodplain manager would not allow for any part of the course to be located in the channel of the Draw, and running the course at street level was deemed too unsafe.

Discussion turned instead to Jaycee Park, but with the city’s monetary woes, construction of an estimated $10,000 course was out of the question.

Blanco told the council Tuesday, however, he had secured both private funding and labor for a course and needed only the use of the land. The council referred him to the recreation and infrastructure departments to work out the details.

During the personnel portion of the meeting, the council approved the hiring of Tom Riley as an IT Tech I at a pay rate of $2,790 per month and the promotions of Mark Nason and Isaac Sanchez to division chief of operations/EMS with the AFD and Equipment Operator I for the cemetery department respectively at rates of $5,357 and $2,235 per month.

After much discussion, the council also granted permission to advertise and fill 11 positions, including: solid waste equipment operator; street/parks equipment operator; water technician; utility billing supervisor; fire marshal; three police officers; and three firefighters.

Prior to Tuesday’s regular meeting, the council held a special hearing to consider appeals regarding delinquent utility accounts. With no property owners attending the hearing, the council granted approval to file liens against any properties in delinquency unless the owners submit payment by Sept. 29.

In other business Tuesday, the council:

• approved a request by the Artesia Car Enthusiasts and Valley Vintage Motor Car Club of Roswell for the use of the Senior Center parking lot from 7 a.m. – dusk Oct. 7­8 for the 18th Annual Southeast New Mexico Regional Swap Meet and Car Corral.

• denied a request for a lot width variance for properties located at 319, 321 and 323 W.

Dallas Ave. due to the fact the variance would create non­standard lots.

• amended certain Criminal and UTO provisions of the Artesia City Code in order to bring code language in line with state statutes.

• adjourned to executive session in accordance with the State of New Mexico Open Meetings Act to discuss the employment status of a probationary fire department employee, and voted after reconvening to terminate said employee.

As part of its approved consent agenda, the council:

• accepted the retirement of Simon Chavez, street department equipment operator, effective Aug. 22.

• accepted the resignation of Samuel Lara, solid waste equipment operator, effective Sept. 2.

• accepted the resignation of James Abner, fire marshal, effective Sept. 9.

• accepted the resignation of Ali Gokey, police officer, effective Sept. 9.

• accepted the resignation of Mike Jensen, firefighter, effective Sept. 9.

• accepted the resignation of Jessica Calhoun, utility billing supervisor, effective Sept. 30.

• ratified Burch’s approval of a public hearing Sept. 27 for consideration and approval of an ordinance regarding a zone change from SA­2 Suburban Acreage District to MH Manufactured/Mobile Home District for the 3200 block of West Williams and Washington avenues.

• ratified Burch’s approval of a public hearing Sept. 27 for consideration and approval of an ordinance regarding a zone change from SU­1 Special Use District to C Commercial Business District for 1209 W. Grand Ave. and 405 S. 13th St.

• ratified Burch’s approval of a public hearing Sept. 27 for consideration and approval of an ordinance regarding a zone change from SA­2 Suburban Acreage District to MH Manufactured/Mobile Home District for 3801­3902 W. Missouri Ave., the 3700­3800 blocks of West Dallas Avenue, and the 3700 block of West Washington Avenue.

• granted permission for one police employee to attend Basic Criminal Investigator training in Bernalillo.

• granted permission for two wastewater employees to attend the Compost Facility Operator certification course in Moriarty.

• granted permission for one police employee to attend the Instructor Refresher course in Las Cruces.

• granted permission for one recreation employee to attend the NMRPA Board meeting and conference in Farmington.

• granted a request by Grammy’s House for the use of a route from 811 W. Texas Ave.

to Central Park from 5:30­8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, for its annual Domestic Violence Walk.

• granted a request by the Artesia High School cross country team for the use of Jaycee Park from 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, for its annual cross country meet.

• granted a request by the Artesia Police Department for the use of the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Complex from 5­9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 4, for its annual National Night Out event.