Commission returns public nuisance ordinance to committee

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

After more than two years of volleys between committee and commission, Curry County commissioners have again returned to committee an ordinance to clean up the county.

Commission Chairman Bobby Sandoval said he wants to see a revised ordinance of the public nuisance ordinance — know officially as “An Ordinance Affecting General Public Health and Safety” — re-introduced within a month.

The decision to reject the ordinance was spurred by Commissioner Caleb Chandler, who spent several minutes pointing out concerns.

“I’m not really sure what we’re trying to accomplish here,” he said. “(But) I don’t think the one that’s before us is the one that we want to pass.”

Chandler pointed to what he termed ambiguous language, unenforceable components and duplication of existing state and federal laws.

One example he gave made property owners responsible for removing animal carcasses within 24 hours of the animal’s death.

Chandler pointed out determining time of death is challenging even for law enforcement in forensic investigations.

“This requirement, I think, is going to be impossible to prove,” he said.

Additionally because of the number of steps and warnings given under the ordinance, he said, if for instance the issue were trash blowing around, “it would take 151 days for a judge to send someone to go pick the trash up.”

And the process of filing would be free for a complainant, but would be paid for by the county, which would have to pay the tab on legal fees.

“Mr. Chairman, I don’t think we can afford this ordinance with all these attorney’s fees,” he said.

“I think it would be a nightmare to pass it in its present form.”

Commissioners decided to send it to a committee with discussion involving the full commission.

Sandoval said the meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday and will be public, although the public will not be allowed input. The location of the meeting will be announced later.

Several members of the audience addressed the commission, most supporting the need for an ordinance.

The community needs to be cleaned up, said Rosalie Riley, who owns a Clovis flower shop and has been a local activist for community beautification.

She said she began hearing complaints from customers years ago.

“Husbands were telling us the wives were crying because they were stationed in Clovis (at Cannon Air Force Base) and it was the nastiness, dirtiest place they had ever lived,” she said.

“Let’s clean this place up and let it shine.”

Several school children were also present at the meeting.

Clovis High School student Victoria Cordova told commissioners she was surprised when she traveled to larger cities and saw how clean they were, noticing for the first time how deteriorated her hometown of Clovis is.

“I do not want to raise my children in a dirty place like this,” the 17-year-old said.

“Wouldn’t you want a better percentage of us staying here? This is what our future generations need.”

County resident James Priest, who has been an outspoken opponent of the ordinance, also addressed commissioners.

“I want to live like (this),” he said, of his property on U.S. 70, south of Clovis.

“We are all Americans … Now they may not like my place and that doesn’t bother me.”

Priest, who has long argued for the rights of property owners, owns an auction company and stores materials for his business on his property.

In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, Curry County commissioners:

• Approved a loan with the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority for $823,731 to purchase the post office building on Gidding Street. Finance Manager Mark Lansford said the NMFA requires the county to add a 10 percent deposit to its $750,000 loan for the purchase, which will be put toward the principal at the end of the loan.

• Plains Regional Medical Center Director Hoyt Skabelund said the hospital has been found in compliance in its inspections by regulators. He said the hospital is seeing the impact of an influx of personnel at Cannon Air Force Base. “They’re growing faster that we can accommodate,” he said.

• Interim Jail Administrator Kirk Roberts presented a plan to add 10 detention officers to staff numbers at jail. Roberts said the additional staff will help strengthen security at the facility and would also alleviate overtime and stress on personnel and increase the average shift from eight personnel to 10 or 11.
A 2008 assessment off the jail recommended an additional 33 personnel, he said.
Finance Manager Mark Lansford said the additional personnel will cost about $250,000 a year. Commissioners said they will place the request on the next meeting agenda for a vote.