(Deming) – The Luna County Commissioners will meet in regular session Thursday.
Starmax Manager Ira Pearson will give an annual report on Starmax… Dorian Dodson will give a presentation on Friends of The Healing House… and officials with the Luna County Clerk’s office will present the 2014 polling locations.
Also included on the agenda is a public hearing for a wireless permit, followed by a vote on a wireless permit for Verizon at a location off Sunshine Road Southeast.
The commissioners also are expected to proclaim October 21st as Pro Bono Day… will vote to dispose of a mobile home off South Lime… will consider authorizing County Manager Kelly Kuenstler to execute an amended lease agreement with HELP NM Child Services, Incorporated… and will proclaim Red Ribbon Week in Luna County.
In addition, the commissioners will present a 20-year service award to Marty Miller with the Road Department, 10-year pins to Mario Carbajal with the Maintenance Department and Lauree Sanchez with Dispatch, and five-year pins to Mary Helen Allison with the Detention Center and Frankie Tarazon with the Planning Department.
The commission meeting is set to begin at 9 a.m. Thursday in the commission chambers, located on the third floor of the Luna County Courthouse.
The meeting is open to the public. An executive – or closed – session to discuss the county manager’s annual evaluation and job performance will follow the open meeting.
(Deming) – A Luna County transportation project has been ranked 39th on a list of the 50 transportation projects most needed to support New Mexico’s economy.
TRIP, a national transportation research group, analyzed data provided by the New Mexico Department of Transportation which included routes, locations, current levels of use, types of improvement needed, estimated cost of the improvements, and other factors.
Luna County only had one project rank in the top 50 – a bridge replacement on New Mexico 549 or the Old Las Cruces Highway. The bridge runs four-tenths of a mile near mile-marker 24 and its replacement is estimated to cost $4.8 million.
The TRIP analysis notes that Interstate 10 is a major corridor between California and Florida, and when I-10 is closed due to accidents or dust storms, traffic must detour an additional 60 miles or wait for the re-opening of the interstate.
New Mexico 549 is listed as an efficient alternate when I-10 is closed, but the bridge in question is load-limited and restricts all commercial vehicle traffic.
The analysis further states that the bridge also contains several safety issues that need addressed.
The report says the replacement of the bridge will allow interstate traffic to be detoured with very little added time or mileage, maintaining the east-west traffic flows along the I-10 corridor.
Luna County Sheriff Raymond Cobos
(Deming) – Luna County Sheriff Raymond Cobos is questioning whether six years of incarceration is enough for a convicted murder and escaped convict.
Ernesto Gutierrez, who was convicted in the August 1983 stabbing death of Francisco “Kiki” Rodriguez at the Esquivias Lounge south of Deming, is scheduled for a parole hearing Friday.
Gutierrez was sentenced to 12 years in the New Mexico Corrections system in September of 1983 – 30 years ago – for Rodriguez’s death, but escaped from the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility west of Las Cruces in November of 1984 – just over a year later – and lived for over 23 years as a fugitive in Mexico before being caught again in January of 2008 and extradited to New Mexico to serve his time.
Cobos, who was a captain and one of Gutierrez’s arresting officers in 1983, said he is sending a letter to the parole board saying he doesn’t feel six total years of incarceration is adequate to address Gutierrez’s murder and escape-from-custody charges.
Interestingly, Gutierrez was in Luna County that fateful day in 1983 because he had fled Mexico after reportedly slashing the throat of a Mexican police chief.
Gutierrez and his brother, Manuel, were both sentenced for Rodriguez’s murder, but Manuel was unsuccessful in his escape attempt and served his time decades ago.
(Deming) – The Luna County Commissioners will meet in regular session Wednesday. The meeting is one day earlier than the usual meeting date of the second Thursday of the month.
Included on the agenda is a public hearing for a revision to the county’s wireless telecommunications ordinance, followed by a vote on the revision.
Other agenda items include the property sale agreement between Luna County and the City of Deming for the former Western Furniture property, and the transfer of Lime Street properties to Deming Public Schools.
The commissioners also will hear reports from County Manager Kelly Kuenstler on recognition from the state Children, Youth and Families Department for an audit and on recognition for the New Mexico Emergency Manager of the Year.
The commissioners will present a 20-year service award to Carole Smith with the Road Department, and a 10-year pin to Mario Carbajal with the Maintenance Department.
The commission meeting is set to begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the commission chambers, located on the third floor of the Luna County Courthouse.
The meeting is open to the public.
(Columbus) - U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operations officers working at the Columbus port of entry made an unusual discovery Thursday afternoon. They found a man lying face down in a shipment of red chile.
CBP agriculture specialists were initiating an examination of a commercial shipment of chile when they found a man sprawled out on top of the load, said Columbus Port Director Robert Reza. There was a bottle of tequila next to him and he appeared to be highly intoxicated when we encountered the subject.
The 35-year-old Mexican male told CBP officers he climbed into the commercial hopper while it was being staged in Mexico hoping to catch a ride to Chicago. His ill-fated journey to the United States lasted less than 100 yards when he was met by CBP. He was processed for expedited removal and returned to Mexico. CBP agriculture specialists continued their exam without incident and released the shipment and notified the importer of their unexpected discovery.
While anti-terrorism is the primary mission of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the inspection process at the ports of entry associated with this mission results in impressive numbers of enforcement actions in all categories.
Luna County Health Council Coordinator Matt Robinson
(Deming) – The Luna Health Council is hosting a community town hall this Thursday evening to address the ongoing issues surrounding the state’s behavioral health services audit.
Organizers say the purpose of the town hall is to seek from local residents, clients and providers any feedback or questions they would like answered.
They say the goal is to receive as much input as possible or to hear questions and concerns the community may have about New Mexico’s audit of behavioral health services and the transfer of services to Arizona companies.
Health Council Coordinator Matt Robinson said health council members have heard concerns and questions, but want to hold a community event for everyone to have an opportunity to provide input.
Robinson said the health council members understand that this is an ongoing issue with some controversy surrounding it, and they are not taking a stand on the issue but rather providing the public an opportunity to forward thoughts and questions to the state and our legislators.
The town hall will run from 6-8 p.m. Thursday at the Mimbres Valley Learning and Special Events Center, 2300 East Pine. The event will be free of charge and open to anyone interested.
Luna County Clerk Andrea Rodriguez
(Deming) – Luna County Clerk Andrea Rodriguez and county clerks across New Mexico are joining a lawsuit that allowed same-sex couples to be married and plan an appeal to get a statewide decision by the Supreme Court on whether gay marriage is legal.
The executive director of a group representing county clerks said a district judge in Bernalillo County on Thursday allowed the New Mexico Association of Counties and county clerks to intervene in the lawsuit.
The clerks and the association expect to file an appeal next week with the state Supreme Court.
The judge earlier this week ruled that it was unconstitutional to deny gay and lesbian couples a marriage license.
The clerks' move came as a same-sex couple in Los Alamos County brought a lawsuit to require local officials to issue them a marriage license.
Rodriguez said the Luna County Clerk’s office is not issuing same-sex marriage licenses at this time and they are awaiting a ruling from the courts.
(Deming) – The Deming City Councilors Monday authorized City Administrator Rick McInturff to negotiate the purchase of county-owned property in the 100 block of North Gold.
The authorization came after a closed session.
McInturff said the county owns 51% of the cleared property between Gold and Copper, and Pine and Cedar, while the city owns 49%.
But, he said, since the city and county operate under separate state statutes and regulations, it has become cumbersome to have both governmental entities involved in offering the land for lease.
It has been reported that Walgreens is interested in leasing the property.
County Manager Kelly Kuenstler said the county has approximately $700,000 invested in the property, which housed Western Furniture for years and was later converted to county offices while the courthouse was remodeled.
McInturff said he has instructed city attorney Jim Foy to draft a purchase sales agreement which he hopes to present to county officials next week.
If approved by the county commissioners, the purchase will still have to be approved by the State Board of Finance.
McInturff hopes to have the purchase on the Board of Finance’s September 17th agenda.
The money to buy the property, he said, would come from the city’s general fund reserves.
McInturff added that the first two phases of the environmental process on the land have been completed.
He said there was a small amount of soil contamination from leakage of the underground gas storage tanks located beneath the former Downtown Exxon business. The state paid $30,000 to complete the clean-up.
(Deming) – Luna County Manager Kelly Kuenstler is seeking public input for the county’s Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan for the 2014-2018 fiscal years and for future Community Development Block Grant projects.
Kuenstler said county officials use the Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan as a guide for future capital outlay projects and to assist in determining what funding opportunities are most appropriate for county projects.
She said that after public input is received, they will rank the projects for placement in the final version of the plan.
The draft Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan can be found on the county’s website: www.lunacountynm.us.
Kuenstler said they have scheduled two public meetings for input. The first meeting will be Monday, August 19th at 5:30 p.m. The second will be Tuesday, August 20th at 2 p.m. Both meetings will be held in the basement of the Luna County Courthouse.
Individuals, organizations or special interest groups with possible projects that would benefit the public should come prepared to present their ideas.
(Deming) -- Luna County's unemployment rate dropped again in June.
Preliminary figures from the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions show Luna County with a June unemployment rate of 16.5%, down from the revised May unemployment rate of 17.5%, and down from the June 2012 rate of 17.5%.
June is the third straight month of unemployment decline for the county.
Following Luna County in the list of New Mexico counties with the worst unemployment was Mora with 13.4% and McKinley at 10.1%. Those were the only three New Mexico counties with double-digit unemployment.
Rounding out the top five counties with the highest unemployment rates in the state in June were Taos at 9.7% and Guadalupe at 9.6%.
In our area, Grant County had 7.8% unemployment in June, Hidalgo County had 6.8% and the Las Cruces area had 8.5%.
The county with the least unemployment remained Los Alamos with 4.5%.
The state unemployment rate for June – at 6.8% – was up slightly from the May revised rate of 6.7%, but down from the June 2012 rate of 7%.
The New Mexico labor force estimates show Luna County with a labor force of 12,814 – with 10,702 employed and 2,112 unemployed.