Highlights of the Catron County Commissioners Meeting
By Naomi Martineau
Cruzville Convenience Center
Dozens of residents from Cruzville, Apache Creek, and Aragon packed the courtroom to participate in the agenda item "Cruzville Convenience Center Closure Option."
Commission chairman Glyn Griffin gave an introduction to the problem, stating that solid waste has been on the agenda since 2002, and the county is going in the hole $20,000 per month. This deficit is being made up by the General Fund and if something is not changed the county will be completely broke. A big problem is that $110,000 has not been paid to the program. They plan to close all but four sites: Glenwood, Reserve, Quemado, and Datil. They plan to have two employees, who will man the centers and haul the material to Blue Hills, the Arizona landfill. Another option is to turn it over to private enterprise. The county is not obligated to take care of people's trash.
While the county plans to have public meetings to discuss solid waste, sometime in the future, this item was put on the agenda today simply because the employee at the Cruzville center was quitting, and the county had to decide whether or not to replace him. They were not singling out the CACA community.
Most comments included support for raising fees, and the high cost of driving the garbage to Reserve. Sam Freshour said, "It costs me two gallons of gas from Cruzville to drive to Reserve, and it's more than that for most people."
Cindy Wasserburger said, "We have to consider the seniors and the local economic impact. The amount they spend on driving their garbage to Reserve is money they won't be able to spend at Jakes." Jeff Terrell suggested making it more palatable by charging a monthly fee of $20.
Commissioners were reluctant to consider raising fees sufficiently to cover the cost of current services. "If we raise fees, people will think we're choking their kids."
Other comments focused on the amount that will be saved by closing the center. Commissioner Griffin said it costs $14,000 per year to operate.
Debra Knudson said that not every household produces the same amount of trash. A solid fee is not fair. Jim Wasserburger suggested a senior discount in the form of half price, and only receiving one card.
There was general indignation at the information that this hardship is partly caused by the refusal of some people to pay the current fee, to share the load. Dave Grandchamp said that in other places, if a person is delinquent on his taxes the property can be put up for bid. Why can't we do that here? Commissioner Griffin explained that because the county is not required to provide this service, they cannot add it to the tax bill. County manager Cathlyn Snyder said they tried that in Luna County unsuccessfully, but they will continue to research solutions. Jeff Terrell said that these people can be taken to small claims court, where a judgment can be obtained.
Eva Stover said some places have environmental impact tax, not a solid waste fee.
Jim Wasserburger said that a few years ago these problems were foreseen, and a group, led by Mary Rakestraw, spent a lot of time on a study that included some solutions. None of the county commissioners or personnel seemed familiar with the study. Wasserburger recommended they get it and read it.
Jeff Terrell said when they closed the Aragon center, it was suggested they contact Don Tripp, who is helpful in introducing legislation in Santa Fe. That wasn't done, but it could still be done.
Sam Freshour said he was concerned about people having to pay the fee for property that isn't generating trash. Commissioner Griffin explained the policy is properties with utilities are assessed the fee.
Mary Najar volunteered to man the site, to save the county money, and save her neighbors the drive to Reserve. Commissioner Griffin said that would be a liability if someone fell and broke their leg.
Jeff Terrell said, "It's time for this commission to take the bull by the horns and get something done." Commissioner Griffin said, "There will be no more passing the buck." A decision was tabled until next meeting.
Air Force Training
Captain Matt Babcock of Davis Montham Air Force Base reported on Angel Thunder, a premi- ere personnel recovery exercise to be conducted in Reserve in April. Angel Thunder is part of a 12-exercise program to train Air Force personnel to support civil authorities. This would be useful in the event that an emergency is greater than local resources can handle.
The exercise is based on a fictional earthquake in Arizona. (Historically this has happened.) Fifty hikers in the Negrito area experience a landslide, which kills their leader and injures others.
The Air Force will use the Reserve Forest Service building as their Incident Command Post, and requested permission from the commission to use the fairgrounds for staging. The commissioners gave their permission. The Air Force will pay for utilities used. The 24-hour training exercise will be April 13 and 14.
Forest Service News
Gila Forest Supervisor Kelly Russell reported the Forest has hired two new people to help expedite timber sales. Currently there are 8700 ccf under contract, and there will be several more sales by September. Timber sales on the Forest are double what they were ten years ago.
Commissioner Bucky Allred cited a study by Gary Snyder, Rocky Mountain Station, which said that the Forest could sustain over 30,000,000 linear board feet, and asked why is more logging not pursued in Quemado, Luna, and Reserve?
Supervisor Russell was not familiar with the study. However, she said she is committed to making the investment in helping the area develop more timber.
Commissioner Russell said she is committed to opening up as much of the Catwalk as is safe, as quickly as can be. She sees her role as helping to speed the process. New toilets have been ordered. An indepth hazard analysis will be completed by the end of April to indicate how much can be done. When the bridges are put back in they'll have to adhere to higher standards. They intend to open the closed trails within a month. She is also committed to working with the county on the Community Wildfire Protection Plans. She will be making the decision on the Travel Management Plan around the end of April.
Reserve District Ranger John Pierson said that they removed the pine lawn toilet for health and safety reasons; the system didn't work.