Mining District Moving Forward
By Lynn Janes
This past Thursday September 9, Luis Terrazas, District 39 New Mexico State Representative, held the first town meeting or community forum of sorts for the mining communities. He invited all the mayors and other officials in the area to attend. The meeting idea came from a breakfast between Terrazas and Javier Salas, County Commissioner. They held it at the Bayard Community Center, and everyone was welcome and encouraged to attend. Also attending were County Commissioner Chris Ponce, Hurley Mayor Ed Stevens, Bayard Mayor Pro-tem Raul Villanueva, Santa Clara Mayor Richard Bauch, and Sheriff Frank Gomez.
Terrazas called this meeting to see how they all could work together to improve the mining district and solve the problems they were having. He wanted to improve communication through the mining district and the officials in the area and encourage positive interaction.
Terrazas spoke about being a businessman and as a businessman you identify a problem, and you fix it. In politics it is a more drawn-out process. He wanted to know what he could do to help.
They called the meeting to order and said the Pledge of Allegiance.
Terrazas brought up some ideas. He said: “We have a beautiful area, and we need to promote it. We should have a welcome center to let people know what is available in the area, RV parks, motels, etc.” He added: “We need more hotels and RV parks. Trash pick-up and clean-up is a must for making the area attractive to people coming in.” Terrazas then talked about Fort Bayard and how it is something that could benefit the area. Public Safety and the schools need improvement.
Salas said: “We have a lot to build on and need to use it. Our voters are important, and we need to listen to them.”
Ponce brought up what the county has been working on, which included working on a vocational center with President (Joseph) Shepard from Western New Mexico University. He hoped soon they would have something to present.
The mayors from Bayard, Hurley, and Santa Clara then spoke about their projects and needs. This was the first time in years they had come together.
Mayor Stevens commented on being a businessman and things were fast paced but he had learned to work with the slowness of government. He said he has a vision that Hurley can be a town to be proud of, but they needed money and infrastructure to make that happen.
Mayor Pro-tem Raul Villenueva said communication and infrastructure was a big thing for them. To be proud of their town they needed jobs. He said he wished the mayor had been able to be there to share his vision. Talking about tourism, they needed to have something to offer. Public safety is an important issue in the area. “It is hard to attract officers and keep them in the area.”
Mayor Bauch said gross receipts were something they needed to in order to survive. He said the village continues building up and renovating the main street to attract more businesses. He also commented on the Wild and Scenic legislation in Santa Fe and how he feels it would have a negative impact on the area. The village also still has a lot of problems with going forward on Fort Bayard. He then commented on public safety and the problems of finding and keeping officers.
Terrazassaid: “What I hear is you all need money. It takes a year for legislation to go through for that.” He also said what he hears from all of them is they need more officers. All three mayors said it takes money to attract them and keep them. All three municipalities are not equipped in their budget to be competitive. It costs $60,000 a year for one officer, and the officer sees less than half of that. The rest is insurance, social security, etc. Public safety is 55% of their budget. They have an idea to remedy the problem, but the state is not allowing it. They want to rehire retired police officers. The state will not let them have their pension if they do this. Another problem with attracting new officers is the recent legislation from the state eliminating Qualified Immunity. Terrazas pointed out he and Rebecca Dow, District 38 State Representative, voted against that bill.
Sheriff Gomez spoke about the challenge of the Qualified Immunity Bill that had been passed recently. “It is not a good law and is a violation of civil rights.”
Fort Bayard is an obvious need for the community to grow. It is rich in history, and recreation possibilities being right near the national forest. Development is a must.
Several people got up and commented with some ideas. One woman brought up the idea of putting in solar and selling it back to make money for the community.
Terrazas said it is hard to solve decades of problems, but “we must show pride in our community and property.” On the September 18 he said they will be meeting at Terrazas Funeral home to go out and clean up the streets in the area.
Terrazas said he hopes to continue these meetings and move forward together to improve and solve problems in the area.