Courtesty photo Caleb Chandler is a District 5 County Commission candidate.
Editor’s note: The Clovis News Journal asked District 5 Curry County Commission candidates to answer the following questions in 300 words or less. The answers were edited for spelling and style. The primary is June 3.
Party affiliation: Republican
Occupation: Retired magistrate judge
Previous elected offices: Curry County magistrate judge, New Mexico senator
What is your long-term vision for the county? And how will you plan for that?
A smooth transition to accommodate the growth that I am expecting in Curry County will require careful planning. My long-term plan for Curry County is to create a five- and 10-year plan by setting realistic goals and objectives that can be achieved within sound revenue projections.
The plan must include:
1. Prioritizing the improvement of county roads, while maintaining all other county roads.
2. Reassessment of the Curry County detention facility, which consumes a major portion of the county’s budget. An improved inmate classification system could result in housing minimum security inmates in a lower-cost minimum security facility. A study to determine if privatization of the detention center is an option that would save tax dollars.
3. A smooth transition of Cannon Air Force Base. The plan to assist Cannon must include extra ordinary efforts to include our military personnel in the family of Curry County citizens. Our military men and women must be included in the planning process.
4. Phased improvements at the fairgrounds and a plan of action resulting in year-round use of the fairgrounds and the events center.
5. A multi-phased plan to beautify our main corridors by planting trees and other vegetation that require very little water. This plan should be accomplished by partnerships of city, county and state governments. The railroad should join the partnership where there are railroad right-of-ways.
6. A plan to assure that we have an adequate supply of water.
The plan to accomplish these goals and objectives must include input from interested citizens who have expertise in the subject of the plan and we must be strongly committed to follow through with the plan.
Are you in favor of zoning or creating an ordinance to clean up the county?
I believe zoning the county would create more problems than it would solve and I do not favor zoning. An additional ordinance is premature and should only be enacted as a last resort.
I do believe we must take immediate action to clean up and beautify our main corridors. This should be done through a partnership with city, county and state and should involve the railroad when there are railroad right-of-ways. Local and state governments must lead this effort by example. By leading the effort to keep public property clean and through a multi-phased plan of planting trees and other types of vegetation that require little water, we can motivate private property owners to do the same. The value of these properties should increase much more than the cost of improvements. I believe many individuals and civic clubs will donate their time to assist in this effort if they are convinced that it is a priority of our local governments.
We should explore the possibility of designating certain days when all county residents could take refuge to the landfill free of charge. City and county employees could be allowed certain work days to lead citizen volunteers in picking up trash on our roadways. Supervised non-violent inmates who are not a flight risk could clean roadways in return for good time credit.
Some existing ordinances may need to be modified to increase fines for those convicted of dumping trash on county roads.
The county commission should create a forum for citizens who are interested in beautification of our county. Some of the best ideas come from citizens who are proactive in a positive way.
We must also realize this plan can only be accomplished through a joint effort of all citizens of our county.
What do think the county should do to address water conservation?
Water conservation is a critically important issue in Curry County.
Curry County has already incorporated water conservation measures as part of the county subdivision regulation. As an example, xeriscaping is a type of landscaping that can significantly reduce outdoor water use and is becoming increasingly popular because it not only saves water but also reduces watering costs.
The county needs to support the important work of the Curry County Soil and Water Conservation District and the County Extension Service since public education is one of the most effective means of bringing down the average daily per capita water use.
Irrigated agriculture holds the most promise for potentially significant savings through conservation and management. Much is being done to improve efficiency in water diversion, delivery, distribution and application. Over the past several years, irrigation systems have continued to increase in efficiency due to improved technology and management techniques.
While dairies sometimes get blamed for excessive water use, dairies actually use less water than traditional agriculture because the water rights for commercial dairies is reduced to 1.7 acre-feet per acres from the 3 acre-feet per acre for traditional crops. Also, dairies utilize reclamation practices that provide for reuse of the water for multiple purposes.
The county needs to support the U.S. Geological Survey monitoring program, which provides for periodic measurements of static water levels in wells throughout the county.
State statutes and regulatory policies regarding conservation could be improved by:
1. Providing an improved definition of water conservation in state law to define conservation as a beneficial use;
2. Provide state tax credits for qualified conservation investments; and
3. Policies that encourage voluntary conservation investments in upgraded technology.
The county should do everything possible to promote wise stewardship of our limited water resources.
What do you consider the county’s greatest need today? And how should we resolve this issue?
I believe the greatest long-term problem of the county is the declining Ogallala water basin. I have believed this to be a major problem for over 30 years. In 1981, during the time I was a state senator representing Curry County, I sponsored legislation that authorized $10.5 million in bonds to complete construction of the spillway gates and increase the height of the dam at Ute Lake by 27 feet. This increased the total capacity of Ute Lake from 109,600 acre-feet of water to 272,800 acre-feet of water. This was one of the early efforts to capture water and deliver it to eastern New Mexico by pipeline. Since that time our elected officials and many others have worked to make the pipeline a reality. We must continue these efforts. We must also take measures to conserve water, but even with the best conservation effort it is predicted that the Ogallala will no longer be a viable source of water in 20 to 50 years. The Ogallala runs east into Texas and although we conserve, others may not.
We also must continue to explore other sources of water such as desalination of water.
What is your stance on alcohol sales at the Curry County Special Events Center?
Voters are divided on the issue of alcohol sales at the event center. The decision of an adult to drink an alcoholic beverage is a decision of individual choice. Our laws state that government will not interfere with that decision unless the individual becomes intoxicated and infringes on someone else’s rights or becomes a danger to the community.
Although I would vote no at a referendum, I have a strong belief that elected officials should not represent their personal interests; rather they must represent the interests of the majority of their constituents. Elected officials should also make decisions based on all the facts. At this time, all the facts are not known. We need to know how revenues and losses will be affected by the sale or lack of sales of alcohol. We need to understand the liability to the county and the additional cost of insurance to cover that liability. Questions about security and law enforcement as well as questions regarding rules relating to serving alcohol and the training of alcohol servers to assure minors and individuals who are becoming intoxicated are not served, have not been answered. These questions should be answered and made public so that informed decisions can be made.
Because I feel strongly that this issue should be decided in favor of the majority of the constituency, my first preference would be to allow voters to vote on the issue.
Based on my conversations with voters at this time the majority seems to favor alcohol sales; however there are many who have not had the opportunity to express their views. I will continue to seek input from voters and if this issue is not resolved when I take office in January 2009, I will cast my vote to represent the majority of my constituency.
What can county commissioners do to avoid any more‚ “unaccounted for funds”, in light of the money missing from the 2007 county fair?
These are the audit findings regarding the missing funds as I understand them:
The audit was requested after the county administration was unable to receive accurate figures from the treasurer’s office on gate receipts.
The audit found that there is over $13,000 in gate receipts that cannot be found.
Although the audit did not disclose any significant deficiencies in Curry County’s internal controls, we obviously need a better system of checks and balances.
Since I am not a county commissioner at this time I am not in a position to totally evaluate the problem, but I would offer a few suggestions.
All gate passes should be numbered and there should be documentation of names of individuals approved by the county commission for donated tickets. There should be an accounting of fair gate receipts after each shift. The accounting should be done by one person and verified by a second person. Receipts should be deposited nightly.
The fees for rental of county facilities should be paid in advance to the county administration.