Housing is a “huge concern” for incoming airmen, Cannon Air Force Base Commander Col. Timothy Leahy told Curry County commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting.
With the transition of entire units of personnel from Florida to support Cannon’s new mission, airmen tasked to move are struggling with housing issues, he said.
“In Florida, they’re having a hard time selling homes,” he said.
Many members are looking at becoming “geo-bachelors,” which means they leave their families behind and come to Cannon on their own, living in the dorms, he said, rather than place their families in financial hardship.
“That doesn’t help the family and it doesn’t help the mission,” he said.
Commissioners unanimously approved Leahy’s request that they sign a letter offering support for favorable tax consideration to contractors who will manage future privatized military housing located just west of Cannon.
Giving special consideration on taxes will help insure airman have a quality, affordable housing option, Leahy said.
Leahy said if private contractors are charged standard tax rates for the properties, those costs would be passed onto airmen.
“(Special tax consideration) allows the developer to provide the best (option) to the airmen as opposed to less because they have to pay taxes,” he said.
Specifics of the tax breaks were not discussed.
Under privatized housing, developers take ownership of leased military housing and manage the properties. Military members rent the units from the developer, he said.
If developers are not able to fill the units with active duty military members, they have the option of offering rentals to military dependents separated from their spouses, retirees, and eventually civilians, he said.
Should that happen, he suggested commissioners allow themselves the flexibility to tax non-active duty rental properties.
Leahy also gave the following Cannon updates:
• Construction at Cannon is moving forward with work on a new fuel depot, which will eventually allow for bio-fuels, a new dining hall and airman center.
Cannon has two temporary hangars for aircraft, which were desperately needed, Leahy said, reporting an unprotected aircraft recently received significant wind damage to a rudder.
• Leahy confirmed there is an issue with traffic on County Road R interfering with one of Cannon’s runways, but he assured that it is “not a ‘the sky is falling’ type of issue (and) there are half-a-dozen ways we can fix that.”
• Cannon is moving toward concurrent jurisdiction with the county in the Chavez and Chavez West military housing areas, Leahy said.
Currently, the county has sole jurisdiction over the housing areas, which are located west of the base.
Through co-jurisdiction, Cannon fire, ambulance and law enforcement personnel could respond to the area and would be able to share responsibility for supporting those housing communities, he said.
• Col. Babette M. Lenfant advised commissioners that work to develop a railroad quiet zone near Cannon is ongoing. A contractor is expected to visit Cannon to evaluate what needs to be done, she said.
In April, Leahy announced the base was working to get a designated quiet zone at the Curry Road R intersection to resolve noise complaints from the nearby housing area.
Meetings watch: Curry County Commission
The following is a supplemental report on Tuesday’s County Commission meeting:
• Special Events Center construction update — Project manager Randy Kamardt reported construction is 82 to 83 percent complete and is expected to be finished by the end of August. It is expected the Curry County Junior Livestock Auction will be held at the center Aug. 11. More than $1 million remains in the budget to complete the project.
• Proclamation for Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month — The commission named June 15 to July 15 Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month.
Erinn Burch with the Curry County Wellness Council reported Curry County ranks third in the state in teen pregnancy.
“There are programs out there that can stem the tide,” she said asking commissioners to lend their support to the issue of curbing teen pregnancies as it arises in the future.
• Prepare for drilling — County Clerk Mario Trujillo suggested the commission begin considering ordinances to regulate drilling for gas and oil so the county is not caught unprepared should companies come to the area. Trujillo reported there have been gas and oil representatives doing research at the clerk’s office and other counties have reported problems regulating operations after they have already begun drilling.
“Once they start drilling they can just keep going,” said Trujillo, explaining during the New Mexico Association of Counties annual conference, counties were advised to familiarize themselves with existing litigation regarding drilling and to prepare preemptive ordinances.
• Sheriff qualifications and longer terms — Sheriff Matt Murray said his office offered support to increase the term limit for sheriffs from two four-year terms to three four-year terms during the N.M. Association of Counties annual conference, in addition to qualification requirements for sheriff candidates.
Murray said he believes a candidate should at least be a certified law enforcement officer and have five years experience in law enforcement, whereas current requirements only stipulate a candidate be 18 years of age.
• Delinquent tax collection — Chief Deputy Treasurer Bernice Baker reported her office has collected more than $180,000 in delinquent taxes. The biggest obstacle they have faced is not having current addresses on residents, resulting in high amounts of returned mail.
Baker also reported each county was asked to adopt an ordinance to track mobile homes during the N.M. Association of Counties Annual Conference.
• Curry County Adult Detention Center staffing — Warden Leslie Johnson reported staffing problems at the adult and juvenile detention centers have eased with only three job vacancies between the two.
As of June 19, there were:
• 244 inmates
• 229 housed at the jail
• 196 males
• 35 females
• 42 in alternate sentencing programs
• 10 at the juvenile detention center
• Maintenance projects — Maintenance Supervisor Lee Delk said a xeriscaping project outside the law library is completed and next week a xeriscaping project at the health department will begin.
Also work has begun on the ceiling in the food barn at the fairgrounds.
• Curry Road 16 — Road work is going well, Interim Road Superintendent Denis Fury said. The commission also agreed to approve a request by Qwest to install fiber optic lines on Curry Road P between U.S. 60 and Curry Road 11, provided Qwest enters into a liability contract with the county.
• Garage sales at Trade Days — Fairgrounds Manager Susan Ferrell said her office will open an area for resident garage sales during Trade Days. For a $10 daily fee, residents can sell their items on site.
Dairy Fest is on schedule for Saturday at the fairgrounds, the Junior Rodeo is scheduled for July 14-19, and fair preparations have begun, she said.
• Excellent fiscal condition — Finance Manager Mark Lansford said the county exceeded revenue projections for the fiscal year by more than $1 million. He also said the county expenses were $1 million less than budgeted.
“(Department heads) have been watching their budgets very closely and living within their means,” he said.
The surplus funds are put into the county reserve, which is currently between $5 and 6 million.
Reserve funds are used to cover unforeseen expenses and to pay upfront costs for expenses reimbursable through grant programs, Lansford said.
• Pay raises — Commissioners approved a salary plan and adjustments that will affect 59 employees who were below the minimum based on a comparison study the county commissioned.
The study compared pay in similar counties in the state, regional positions held with the cities of Portales and Clovis as well as local state employees, and found the vast majority of positions were behind the minimum mark by 8 percent.
“Every department has some employees below the minimum,” County Manager Lance Pyle reported.
The raises will increase the county payroll budget by $100,469, or 2.59 percent.