Official votes self off of committee

By Jack King

The Curry County Commission voted Tuesday to remove Commissioner Tim Ashley from the county special events subcommittee — an action initiated by the Ashley himself, who even seconded the motion.
Ashley said Tuesday he had been the subject of controversy last year, when a group of country residents asked District Attorney Brett Carter to investigate votes by the commission to build a concrete thin-shell, domed special events center and to award a contract for architectural services to LPDJ Architects of Bountiful, Utah, who proposed to design a dome.
Ashley operates a concrete company, but Carter’s office said in November it found no wrongdoing in connection with the decisions.
But, Ashley said Tuesday that, in light of questions about a proposed business plan that recommends an even larger events center, he wanted to open the possibility that he should be replaced on the committee, so there could be no possible charges of conflicts of interest.
Other commissioners and County Attorney Steve Doerr immediately defended Ashley, but added that he had a good point.
“If someone’s going to criticize you, we should point out that the D.A. found no merit in the complaints. But, it’s an extremely valid point and I applaud you for making it,” Doerr said.
“Are you advising that Commissioner Ashley should be replaced?” Commissioner Ed Perales asked Doerr.
“I’ll open it, if anybody wants to take it up,” Ashley said.
No commissioner volunteered to replace Ashley. Perales then moved that Commission Chairwoman Kathrynn Tate appoint someone.
Doerr then advised the commission to put decision on the agenda for its next meeting. Perales amended his motion to reflect that advice and Ashley seconded Perales’ motion, which was approved by the commission.
Ashley’s suggestion came up as the commission discussed a Jan. 13 proposal by Global Entertainment Inc. to build and operate a 3,500-seat events center. The center would cost between $16.2 million and $18.3 million and be suitable for a number of indoor events, including ice hockey, Global Entertainment representatives said.
County Manager Geneva Cooper said Global Entertainment representatives have called her, asking if they should go ahead with a study of community and financial support for the proposal. Commissioner Pete Hulder said it concerns him that the county has never received a final answer from the company on how much the study would cost.
Commissioner Albin Smith said the county still has a contract under negotiation with LPDJ Architects, which it must settle before it can consider other option. He added that the county might have been premature in awarding a contract for architectural services before it developed a business plan.
“We could get a monument (at the fairgrounds), then not know what to do with it,” he said.
County Treasurer Linda Hall said, speaking as a taxpayer, she thinks the county should deal with its jail overcrowding and its employees’ needs before building a special events center.
Ashley said he, too, was uncomfortable with proceeding with the events center until the county solves its jail problem.
“The boat’s got a hole in it,” he said.
In other business, the commission tabled a request by Clovis Water Policy Board Chairman Randy Crowder that the county adopt a resolution supporting water conservation.
Perales said his constituents, who live in Clovis city limits, resent adopting conservation measures, while watching agricultural producers use the majority of the water.
Smith, a dairy owner whose constituents mostly live in the county, said he oppose any provisions that might appear to encourage restrictions on agricultural users’ proper use of their water rights.