LOCAL NEWS

Highlights From 3-Hour City Commission Meeting

By Tony A. Archuleta

HERALD Reporter

Highlights from the Tuesday, Dec. 9, Truth or Consequences City Commission meeting, which clocked in at three hours, not including a pre-meeting workshop:

  • During public comment, the newly-appointed chairwoman on the Sierra Joint Office on Aging board of directors, Patsy Barnett, noted that the agency is going on its “third or fourth” 90-day probationary period.

Barnett, a former Elephant Butte City Council member, said the agency is steadily straightening out its financial accounting practices under newly-hired SJOA director Tony MacRobert.

  • Jagger Gustin of the Sierra County Arts Council, also during public comment, commended the city on the superior acoustics at the Lee Belle Johnson performing arts center on South Foch. The one missing component: a public address system. Jagger said the council is working to purchase a $2,000 to $3,000 PA system, with $1,000 already in the bank.
  • Under presentations, Karen Weber, program director at Western New Mexico University-Truth or Consequences, reported the community college near Williamsburg continues to thrive.

Weber noted a college student could save up to $2,500 per semester securing an associate’s degree at WNMU-TorC before transferring to a four-year college in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree.

  • Jagger, speaking as the Sierra County liaison to the New Mexico Film Office, reported that Kawasaki Motors Inc., spent an estimated $11,500 locally shooting a commercial in October at Spaceport America for its new Ninja H2.
  • In September, the commission signed a 25-year power purchase agreement with Affordable Solar.

On Tuesday, City Manager Juan Fuentes recommended the commission authorize the transfer, or reassignment, of the PPA to Kenyon Energy.

Fuentes said the transfer stipulation was included in the original agreement with Affordable Solar, but the commission deadlocked on the vote.

Mayor Sandy Whitehead and Commissioner Steve Green voted to okay the transfer. Commissioners Kathy Clark and Jeff Richter voted nay. The vote remained deadlocked in the absence of Commissioner Ruben Olivas.

During a special meeting on Monday, Dec. 15, with all commissioners in attendance, the reassignment was approved on a 4-1 vote, according to the city manager.

Clark said the commission was given insufficient time (Friday through Tuesday) to review the new agreement and learn more about Kenyon Energy, which has four offices nationwide, including Sacramento, Calif., and  Jacksonville, Fla.

Richter has consistently voted against the solar farm initiative from the outset.

The agreement revolves around a 1.5 megawatt solar array currently under construction on South Broadway west of the fair barn.

  • The commission devoted a half-hour listening to and commenting on a request by a local businessman, Hans Townsend, who has long been lobbying city officials on behalf of an out-of-state company, Paradigm Shift Technologies Group, which wants to lease city property “near the airport” to relocate its satellite antennae array sales and operations arm to Sierra County.

Townsend persistently asked for some assurances from the commission that would serve as an encouraging signal to this entrepreneur, and the commissioners persistently insisted they are in no position to grant blanket assurances on city-owned property.

  • As an update on the acquisition of the New Mexico National Guard Armory Building on North Cedar Street, Manager Fuentes said the city should expect to take ownership of the property and buildings in early 2015, soon after the State Armory Board meets in January.

The city plans to relocate police headquarters on one section of the multi-acre property and construct an animal shelter on the other.

  • Also Tuesday, the commission appointed Ronald Phillips to the Airport Advisory Board. Phillips, an active pilot locally, succeeds longtime board member Bobby Middleton.

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