County to discuss committee applications at meeting

Sharna Johnson

Curry County has received 15 applications from citizens interested in being on two committees to study and provide guidance on issues at the jail and courthouse.

Committee hopefuls include an attorney, retired journalist, doctor, former commissioners and community activists.

“We appreciate the interest that we have received from the community and the county commission will be forming the citizen committees on Tuesday,” said County Manager Lance Pyle.

The commission, which is responsible for the creation of committees, will discuss, form and structure the committees during its meeting 9 a.m. in the Clovis-Carver Library’s North Annex.

Commissioners decided to form citizen committees in response to defeat of Nov. 2 bond issues aimed at building a $33 million new jail and courthouse.

Voters rejected the proposals with a near 73 percent vote against.

Commissioners said they want the committees to be autonomous and work with the county manager, jail and courthouse officials.

Pyle said the committees are working committees which will study the issues and make recommendations to the commission for commissioners’ consideration and vote.

The county has only one other committee, the land use committee, which consists of a citizen majority. Pyle said the seven member committee formed to study a proposed health and safety ordinance has five citizen members representing their respective commission districts.

Of those interested in serving on the jail and courthouse committees, eight expressed interest in both, five for the courthouse committee and two for the jail committee.

“I’ve lived in Curry County since 1936 and am interested (in) the safety and prosperity of Curry County,” said Dr. James Moss in a form submitted to the county.

Moss, who has served previously as a city commissioner and mayor, was among those interested in serving on both committees.

Businessman Ben McDaniel, who formed a community group in support of the bond issues prior to the election, also expressed interest in both committees and said he is concerned about safety.

“Both the detention center and courthouse are neighbor(s) to my business,” he said. “Also as a taxpayer and citizen (I’m) concerned about safety in our community.”

Paul D. Barnes who also submitted interest in both committees, was a county commissioner in the early 1990’s when the existing jail was approved and built.

Expressing a desire to “help resolve issues facing our community,” Barnes stated in his written submission that, as a self-employed person and farmer, “sometimes we see the big picture.”

The county has long battled issues with the jail, including structural faults, overcrowding, management and employee turnover.

Those issues have been cited as contributing factors to a growing history of escapes, mistaken releases, arrests of detention officers and other problems in the facility — the most notable of which was the August 2008 escape of eight violent inmates, one of whom remains at large.

Court officials have cited security concerns and issues with overcrowding in the more than 70-year-old courthouse, predicting an inevitable lawsuit or violent incident if concerns go unaddressed.