City commission votes down euthanasia switch

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Clovis citizens and animal protection groups from around New Mexico touted the benefits of lethal injection to euthanize animals at the Clovis Animal Shelter.

The Clovis City Commission disagreed, and voted 4-3 Thursday night against changing from its current carbon monoxide chamber.

Commissioners and citizens spoke for about 30 minutes regarding the matter, which was tabled following a contentious four-hour meeting two weeks ago.

Costs for making the switch were estimated at $141,200 for the first year, and $92,200 for subsequent years, with money coming from the city’s general fund.

Robert Sandoval, who voted in favor of the switch, said lethal injection would become mandatory in 2009, and Gov. Bill Richardson offered $100,000 to help if the city acted in advance of any law change.

The Clovis Animal Shelter destroyed 2,457 cats and dogs in 2007, according to city figures.

Commissioner Len Vohs said he didn’t mind ideas from outside groups, but said he wasn’t convinced carbon monoxide was less humane than lethal injection.

“What’s the issue next week,” Vohs asked? “Or six months from now? If we keep giving in to these unfunded mandates, what will we have left?”

Sandoval countered that mandates, funded or not, are “a fact of life” and commissioners wouldn’t be acting in the taxpayers’ interests if they declined $100,000 in help for something the city would have to do anyway.

Mayor Pro-Tem Randy Crowder said he had no confidence in the figures, primarily because no renovation costs were included. Claudia Roll of Animal Protection of New Mexico said the shelter would need little renovation, but Crowder said he’d heard differently from the city employees who talked with him.

Over 10 years, Crowder said the change would cost the city $1 million and would hamper its ability to give raises to employees.

Three Clovis citizens and a Santa Fe citizen spoke in favor of the switch. Dr. Bruce Cross of Clovis said most citizens he talked to were in favor of the switch. He asked commissioners to envision a procedure he could do at a fictional medical clinic, which would take extra training but make his clinic safer for patients and employees. Then he asked commissioners to envision him not making a change until the government ordered him to.

“If you learned that,” Cross asked, “what would you think of me as a physician?”

Tom Heap of Clovis spoke against the switch. He said the animal shelter staff does exceptional work, and the decision should be left to them. He saw no need to absorb costs for something that isn’t legally required.

Roll vote
A motion was made to switch method of euthanasia method at the Clovis Animal Shelter from gas chamber to lethal injection.

Voting yes
Robert Sandoval
Chris Bryan
Isidro Garcia

Voting no
Randy Crowder
Len Vohs
Ron Edwards
Juan Garza
Commissioner Fred Van Soelen, a critic of the switch during the Nov. 20 meeting, did not attend due to a death in the family.

This is a supplemental report from Thursday’s Clovis City Commission:

• The commission approved recommendations from the Revenue Review Committee dealing with fee changes at the Clovis Municipal Airport, the landfill and on sewer service.

Recommendations tabled were for building impact fees and parks and recreation. Mayor Pro-Tem Randy Crowder said he’d received too many phone calls on impact fees to rush into any voting.

Commissioner Robert Sandoval objected to many fee increases on parks and recreation, explaining they would price kids out of many activities. Members of the Clovis Softball Association said fee increases would hamper their efforts to hold tournaments. Commissioner Ron Edwards wanted a senior citizen discount offered at local golf courses.

• Commissioners filled a position on the planning and zoning committee.

Jake Madril resigned his position, citing medical reasons. Outgoing Curry County Commissioner Tim Ashley and real estate appraiser Doug Defoor applied for the vacancy.

By secret ballot, commissioners selected Defoor.

• Commissioners approved creation of a new sewer line and the extension of current sewer lines to prepare for development on the northwest side of the city.

The $230,000 project would be done in two phases. The first could start any time, and the second could start in March. Most of the cost — nearly $130,000 — comes from the part of the sewer line that would go under a BNSF railroad track.

The project will be funded by sewer impact monies.

• Commissioners approved renewing property, casualty and liability insurance coverage with One Beacon Insurance. The renewal amount was $992,240, down from the 2008 amount of $1.13 million. The policies account for 21 new vehicles, about $6.5 million in new building content and an across-the-board 3 percent increase in property value.

— Kevin Wilson