Courtesty photo Paul Barnes is a District 5 County Commisssion 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.
Paul D. Barnes
Party affiliation: Democrat
Previous elected offices: Curry County Farm Bureau, Texico Board of Education, Curry County Commission
What is your long-term vision for the county? And how will you plan for that?
Curry County is one of the most diverse counties in New Mexico. We prosper from agriculture, Cannon Air Force Base and the railroad. The key to a thriving economy is diversification, variation in industries and the ability to create more jobs using the resources that are available. We need to create a greater availability of education and vocational training through the various school districts and Clovis Community College. By providing job training to area youth, we will provide a greater workforce for potential industries and employers and, at the same time, create skilled labor. This will take our youth off the streets and provide opportunity. The future of our community will fall upon our children and their ability to provide opportunity and skills to those who have limited resources, all the while, reducing our crime rate and the number of juveniles that are incarcerated. The only assets we leave on this earth are our children and the future we provide for them.
Agriculture has been the primary livelihood of this community. The actions we take to make agriculture sustainable, will mean, as a community, that we will have to make hard decisions in the future pertaining to our use and conservation of our greatest resource, our water supply.
I will work hard to see that the county maintains a balanced budget, avoids future tax increases, and brings in jobs and industry that fit within our community profile while protecting our limited resources and protecting our environment.
Are you in favor of zoning or creating an ordinance to clean up the county?
First of all, I feel this is a two part question; there are significant differences between zoning and creating a nuisance ordinance. The county has dealt with this issue in the past through a resolution aligned with a state ordinance.
I feel that an ordinance is necessary, and that ordinance should be considered only by setting up a committee of all local interested parties in the county. A series of public meetings should be held to allow public input and the finalization of such an ordinance.
Our forefathers considered private property rights as a part of our rights as citizens. I am very supportive of private property rights and feel that by creating zoning we must be careful not to impose on our private property rights and that we only consider pubic health and safety issues as related to the zoning of Curry County.
I realize that we have issues in the county that pertain to cleaning up properties that impact the appearance of our communities. I am for providing incentives and programs to area residents to clean up properties. Clean-up days, free use of local landfill, use of county and city employees and equipment, use of county inmates from the detention center, using troubled youth through teen court referrals. Work with and provide easy access to various recycling companies. At present, scrap iron is at record high price, therefore, we should all take advantage of current market conditions.
What do think the county should do to address water conservation?
The biggest issue facing the entire Southwest is the future of our water supply. I feel it is political suicide to address this issue, but being totally honest about the solution and the cure, as a candidate, I am prepared to tackle this issue head on. We must put water conservation practices in place to protect the future of our communities and the entire region. I am for the adjudication of water rights and the metering of agricultural irrigation wells. The state of Kansas has metered their agricultural wells for several decades; the Pecos Valley Irrigation district in Roswell has metered irrigation wells since the 60s. I propose that the county commission require the New Mexico State (Engineer’s Office) to adjudicate water rights and allow agricultural usage at 15 acre feet over a five-year period, as has been done in other areas. The past 15 years, considering our current farming practices, we have doubled the usage of agricultural water. Agriculture would be restricted to usage and eliminate double-cropping farming practices. Metering of wells would allow our farm economy to be sustainable and extend the Ogallala Aquifer for future generations. We must implement conservation practices in the entire region, but must start first in our own backyard.
The urban areas should all utilize the effluent from their city wastewater plants to minimize fresh water usage, as is being proposed by the city of Clovis at present. The municipalities and county must work together in establishing water usage and conservation practices. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service should be involved to helping implement policies and practices that will further aid in this process.
What do you consider the county’s greatest need today? And how should we resolve this issue?
Attempt to avoid future tax increases; I am concerned that our tax base could erode due to a decline in agricultural production, considering the depletion of our water table. We must bring in new industry and business that can contribute to our tax base and minimize the limited use of our water resources. We must provide for better educational and vocational training of our youth and citizens. We can provide a greater resource for incoming businesses and industry that might consider locating in Curry County. Trained and skilled workers are a must to increase our tax base. Education and availability of good paying jobs should also help in reducing our crime rate by providing better opportunity for citizens. If you are going to take people out of poverty, you must educate them and provide jobs. Judge (Ted) Hartley has a program within his adult drug court that should be expanded into juvenile drug court where these individuals are utilized in the clean-up of our communities. Let them become part of the solution rather than the problem.
We must improve infrastructure, roads, recreation, etc. We should utilize the options of grants to improve the appearance of the communities. Areas where buildings are an eyesore must be addressed in order to attract new businesses. Leaders in government must listen to the needs of all citizens not just a few with special interests.
One of our greatest resources is wind and the availability of organic waste streams from livestock operations. The state of New Mexico is mandating that utility companies take a specified portion of their energy from green energy. Considering the availability of wind and the organic waste streams of animal operations, Curry County should become very proactive in exploiting these resources.
What is your stance on alcohol sales at the Curry County Special Events Center?
I think the commission should point out the pros and cons of the sale of alcohol and, by a referendum vote, let the citizens decide the issue as they did on the bond issue to build the events center.
What can county commissioners do to avoid any more “unaccounted for” funds in light of the money missing from the 2007 county fair?
The Curry County Fair Board, which is elected by the people, by district, should be responsible for the management and operation of the fairgrounds as it was in the past. The fair board was accountable to the commission and the citizens of Curry County. The fair board, in the past, has accounted for the proceeds and was audited by an independent auditing firm as well as being audited by the independent firm doing the county auditing. The results were documented and presented to the Curry County Commission. If it wasn’t broke, why fix it!