Commission approves hiring of animal removal firm

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

The sheriff’s office will hire a service to remove dead large, dead animals from public lands and right-of-ways after commissioners gave their blessing Tuesday to Curry County Sheriff Matt Murray.

Last week when a dead calf turned up at the Texico Cemetery, which is public land, Murray said deputies were faced with the difficult task of finding a way to remove the carcass.

In similar past cases, county road department personnel have assisted in the removal of large animal carcasses, but that pulls them away from their other duties and is not an ideal solution, he said.

Murray said a service was located to remove carcasses within a 20 mile radius of Clovis for a nominal fee, which he said his department’s budget can absorb.

The landfill allows the county to dispose of remains for free if they are being removed from public property, he said.

Commissioners gave their blessing with Chairman Frank Blackburn and Commissioner Bobby Sandoval commenting on the seriousness of the issue and the need for a solution.

Commissioners also voted to approve a $600 annual clothing allowance for investigators and supervisors at the sheriff’s office.

Murray said some officers are required to wear professional attire such as jackets and ties, while patrol officers are provided uniforms.

If one of those deputies should get a biological or chemical hazard on those clothes, “we bag them and tag them and they go to the dump.”

Commissioners also voted to allow the sheriff’s office to promote a deputy to the position of supervisor for the Region V Drug Task Force.

Murray and Clovis’ police Chief Steve Sanders told the commission the task force desperately needed leadership to help streamline investigations and communication between police and the sheriff’s office.

The supervisor will oversee four agents, who are drawn from both departments, and make sure reporting requirements to the Department of Public Safety are met, they said.

“I’m big on partnership,” Sanders told commissioners, explaining he was glad Murray suggested a deputy for the position, because, “unfortunately, I’m a tad bit short over there on supervisors.”

Votes in support of the requests were unanimous. Commissioner Caleb Chandler abstained due to his family connection to Murray, who is his brother-in-law.

Chandler queried Murray on his office’s investigation of recent incidents at the jail, specifically three batteries on detention officers and a criminal damage incident, asking if charges were filed.

Murray said charges were filed in the battery cases, however he said a report was not made to his office regarding a criminal damage incident.

During Jail Administrator Lois Bean’s department report, Chandler pressed her on the incidents as well, asking her why charges had not been filed in the criminal damage incident.

Bean said the matter was under an administrative investigation.

Chandler stressed to Bean the importance of showing inmates there would be consequences and charges would be filed for any criminal acts committed in the jail.

“We need to make sure it is known charges are going to be filed,” Chandler said.

Bean told commissioners she has conducted three surprise searches of inmate pods in the last seven days and has confiscated contraband she believes inmates had been hiding for some time.

“Our overall objective is to provide a safe environment for staff and inmates,” she said.

“That’s what’s making the inmates so angry, when you cut into their contraband.”

In other business:

• County Finance Manager Mark Lansford told commissioners county revenue came in more than $1 million over the amount budgeted for the second quarter. But Lansford cautioned that with rising expenses and the costs that will be required for projects such as Special Events Center amenities, the county will likely not see similar revenue surplus in future budget reviews.

• A woman who identified herself only as Rhonda told commissioners she is with the American Civil Liberties Union and is concerned about conditions at the Curry County Adult Detention Center. Inmates, she said, have been denied rights including hot showers for the last week. She stressed 70 percent of the inmates at the jail are awaiting trial and innocent until proven guilty.

Two other women also spoke to commissioners about inmates being deprived rights including telephone time and medical attention.

Commissioners did not respond to the women’s comments and adjourned the meeting.