Published: 2:26 pm, Wed. Mar. 8th, 2017Updated: 2:22 pm
The resolution to close all county administrative offices and departments on Fridays was pulled from the commission’s consent agenda by Commissioner Jon Henry of Artesia, who said his constituents here have voiced concerns over the proposal.
“I haven’t found anyone that I represent, my constituents, that are in favor of it,” Henry told the board.
Henry cited concerns of local real estate agents and title companies who, rather than being able to close on a Friday, would have to push some of their business to Monday due to the lack of access to county services.
“That doesn’t sound like a big deal to some of us, but with these already closing so slow sometimes, I can see a big problem in that,” Henry said.
Henry also questioned the county’s original stance that the four-day workweek was being proposed to save the county money.
Other commissioners also hesitated to term the change a cost-saving measure, with Commissioner Susan Crockett pointing out county employees would likely continue to work overtime occasionally, requiring facilities’ utilities to be in use. They instead said the change would improve employee morale.
Department heads in attendance told the commission their employees were for the change, with the biggest issue raised the fact that the later closing hours the county will adopt to compensate could interfere with parents attending children’s sporting events.
The departments assured the commission their employees were willing to work through lunch or after hours when those types of conflicts arise. The measure ultimately passed with Henry dissenting.
Beginning the week of April 9, county offices will be open from 7 a.m. – 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday.
The board also approved a motion to hold a quarterly evening county commission meeting in Artesia on a trial basis.
“We’ve been discussing this for the five years I’ve been on the commission, and I am ready to give it a shot,” said Crockett.
Commissioners James Walterscheid and Larry Wood broached the subject of possibly trying night meetings in both Artesia and Carlsbad to see which was better attended, but the commission ultimately voted to plan on holding its Tuesday, April 18, meeting in Artesia, likely beginning at 5:30 p.m. The board plans to request the use of Artesia City Council Chambers.
Commission Chairman Stella Davis pointed out that several boards in the past have attempted to hold night meetings in both Artesia and Carlsbad in an effort to be more accessible to residents and that neither was well attended.
“But I’m willing to try it this first quarter and even a second quarter, but if people don’t show up, it’s not worth it,” Davis said.
“I don’t know if it’ll increase attendance, but if we did it either in Artesia or even a night meeting down here, at least then people can’t say, ‘Well, I can’t go because I have work,’” said Henry. “It might afford them an opportunity to come to a meeting.”
The measure was suggested to the commission by Ronald Barron of Artesia.
In other business Tuesday, the commission approved the transfer of a dispenser-type liquor license to Adobe Rose Restaurant. Co-owner Tom Winters told the board the restaurant was responding to consumer demand, with just two local dining establishments currently holding full liquor licenses. Winters said the restaurant’s proximity to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center also made the proposal a popular one among customers.
The transfer was unanimously approved.
The board also passed a measure pledging a monetary contribution in the amount of $50,000 to the Carlsbad Brine Well Remediation Advisory Authority relating to Senate Bill 4. The bill seeks funding from the state to help prevent the collapse of the area around the highway intersection at the “South Y” in Carlsbad into a cavern below.
Walterscheid said he felt it might be important to prove to the state the county had “skin in the game” regarding the prevention of a well collapse if it would help the legislation pass.
The bone of contention for the commission was the state’s implication that the county has its own funds for remediation and would need to contribute before the state could guarantee aid.
“I think it’s interesting they think we have the monies,” said Henry. “I don’t know if that was before or after they took them all.”
“$50,000 seems very little to put into it, but to me, it seems like blackmail,” said Davis, saying the issue has become a political football between the county and the state.
“I don’t support at this time giving any monies to the state – not until the state tells us what they’re going to give us,” Crockett said. “There’s monies in the state environmental fund. We’ve been asking for those monies for three years now and nothing was done.
“There was plenty of money three years ago in the environmental fund to remediate this issue, and because our delegation didn’t jump on board until ‘the sky is falling, the sky is falling,’ now they want to jump on board and do something.”
Assistant County Manager Kenney Rayroux informed the council only $47,000 were available in the county’s contingency fund; the remaining $3,000 would have to come from the general fund balance. However, he and County Attorney Cas Tabor said it might also be possible to draw the money from the county’s environmental fund due to the nature of the issue.
Walterscheid ultimately motioned that the commission approve $50,000 for brine well remediation contingent upon the legislature approving the $400,000 it has promised. The motion passed with Davis and Crockett dissenting.
The commission also approved a request by outgoing County Fire Marshal Kevin Hope to move forward with professional design services for both the Cottonwood and Sun Country Volunteer Fire Stations near Artesia.
Hope said the Cottonwood station is more than 20 years old and experiencing issues. An original plan to construct an addition to the station was deemed not worth the cost, as $40-$50,000 would have to be spent to repair flooring before the project could proceed.
Hope said that to save money, the same design from the construction of the Atoka Volunteer Fire Station would be applied to Sun Country’s facility, which is also more than 20 years old and inadequate in size. Its new station would be constructed adjacent to the current facility.
The commission approved both requests.