By Tony A. Archuleta
Counties and municipalities are required by state law to attend to the seizure and disposition of dogs and cats running at large.
Sierra County, however, is not willing to be overcharged by its longtime contractor, Hot Springs Animal Clinic.
At the recommendation of County Manager Jan Carrejo, the commission on Thursday, April 26, held off on renewing the annual contract with the clinic at 1607 N. Date St. pending further negotiations.
Carrejo said a “stalemate” has developed, as the new owner of the clinic, Danielle Dawkins, DVM, is proposing a “substantial increase” in the monthly fee.
Under the new proposal, the county would pay an additional $427.43 in the base rate plus a new carcass disposal fee of $500 for a total of $3,500 a month (compared to the previous monthly charge of $2,500).
In a Feb. 3 letter to the county, Dr. Dawkins indicated that the new disposal fee stems from the fact that the clinic will have to “find alternate resources to provide for the storage and final disposal of animal carcasses originating from our shelter” now that the county landfill is closed.
Carrejo said the county recognizes its obligation per state law, but she also noted that the county is paying as much as the City of Truth or Consequences for services. At issue: the clinic handled 1,700 animals within the city limits in one year and only 130 on behalf of the county.
It’s incumbent upon the county to seek out a “more equitable” fee structure, Carrejo said.
Carrejo said officials from the cities of Truth or Consequences and Elephant Butte (which contracts with the city of Truth or Consequences, along with the Village of Williamsburg) are sympathetic with the county’s plight, but the county paying less might mean the municipalities pay more.
“These projected fees are dependent on the anticipated full participation of the City of Truth or Consequences for the same fee amounts,” Dawkins noted. “Should the city or county, for whatever reason, choose not to full participate, we will necessarily adjust our fees accordingly.”
The current contract expires June 30.
In previous correspondence dating back to February 2011, office manager John Young explained that when the former owner of Hot Springs Animal Clinic, Bill Cardwell, DVM, constructed the new building on North Date Street, he added an animal shelter “primarily as a community service.”
“We operate the shelter with that ‘community service’ in mind,” Young wrote. “…Our continued operation of this service depends on the support of all entities.”
•Sheriff Joe Baca Jr. reported the April 21 emergency training exercise at Hot Springs High School revealed some radio communications problems.
Baca said the building’s thick concrete walls, metal roof and the school’s topographical location in a natural depression surrounded by hills made it virtually impossible for emergency personnel outside the building to communicate with those inside, and vice versa.
Baca said one possible solution is to place a radio “repeater” antenna on-site, but a better alternative would be to equip law enforcement personnel with “trunked repeaters” like the ones used by New Mexico State Police.
The sheriff also said the landing of the TriState Careflight helicopter on the high school parking lot would have been impossible in a real-world situation, as the lot almost certainly would have been filled with not only regular traffic, but law enforcement, ambulance and fire units as well.
He said a potentially more suitable landing zone would have been the nearby softball or baseball fields.
Commission Vice Chairman Alvin Campbell, who was on hand as an observer, summed up the exercise by saying, “They found lots of problems and lots of solutions.”
•Deputy Treasurer Becky Mena reported the office is currently collecting second half property taxes. She also noted that delinquent tax payments dating back 10 years total $3 million-plus. Nothing follows.
•Clerk Connie Greer reported voter cards are being mailed to all 7,000-plus registered voters in the county.
Greer also noted May 8 is the deadline for unregistered voters to register in time to take part in the June 5 primary election.
•During the pre-meeting workshop, Bill Childress, district manager for the Bureau of Land Management’s Las Cruces area office, invited the county to take advantage of several programs under the purview of the BLM.
Childress said the BLM has land available at little to no cost to the county for the purposes of parks, police departments and fire departments.
“Anything we can do we would like to reach out and work with you,” he said. “If you have any ideas on how to improve our relationship with the county I’m all ears.”
•The commission, by resolution, changed the regular meeting schedule from the first and third Thursdays of the month to the first and third Tuesdays of the month. Meetings start at 10 a.m., but are frequently preceded by workshops.