Note to Constituents from Commissioner
Memo from the desk of Tom Blankenhorn
Taos County has one of the largest number of veterans per capita in the nation. The first medal of honor awarded to an Hispanic went to Taos native Joseph P. Martinez for his bravery in the Aleutians during World War II. In recognition of this proud tradition, General Edward Baca and Sgt. Francis Cordova from El Prado informed the Taos County Board that State funding was being pursued for a Veterans cemetery and a memorial wall engraved with the names of veterans from Taos County. The Board unanimously pledged their full support.
Water Advisory Board
The Water Advisory Board was created by Taos County Ordinance. The Board’s purpose has been to monitor applications for water transfers from water sources within Taos County and make recommendations to the Taos County Board regarding filing opposition to those proposed transfers before the State Engineer’s office.
I asked the Water Advisory Board to explain why they had previously recommended opposition to the El Prado Mutual Domestic application for a transfer, which is needed in order for the El Prado to have sufficient water rights to satisfy their existing customers. The Board informed us that they did not have sufficient information to approve the transfer, and therefore, recommended opposition. I made a motion to set up a work study with the Water Advisory Board, El Prado Mutual, and representatives from the State Engineer’s office in order to get sufficient information and possibly at a later meeting to revisit the decision of the prior Board of County Commissioners to oppose the water transfer.
The motion carried 4-0 (Commissioner Duran was absent).
The Town of Taos has gotten approval for a $24,000,000 grant to build a new runway at the Taos Airport. The grant requires a $1,200,000match from the Town. In order to meet that match obligation, the Town has proposed completing a shoe string annexation of the State Highways leading to the airport from the Town limits in order to create the contiguous border necessary for them to annex the airport. Once annexed, the Town would receive gross receipts tax revenues from the airport expansion and use it to pay off their loan.
The County is opposed to the annexation because it would create the opportunity for the Town to eventually widen the annexation from the borders of the highway to include the businesses which operate along the highway. This would result in lower revenues for the County, and most probably, higher taxes and fees for the annexed business owners. Moreover, it brings uncertainty to the proposed land use code for that area by allowing future businesses to choose the Town’s code over the County’s.
In order to avoid annexation, the County voted 4-0 to offer the Town an even split of both the debt service on the loan and the operations of the airport. This totals approximately $100,000 per year which is more than the $70,000 per year required to service the $1,200,000 debt. The County would cover these expenses with the increased tax revenues that it receives from the airport expansion. The County is expecting a response to the offer within a couple of weeks.
Dispatch and 911 communications
The Town has been approved for a $360,000 grant to purchase communication equipment necessary to operate a modern 911 Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). The Town wants to place that new equipment in the Kit Carson Command Center, and to move the existing equipment located in their building on Civic Plaza Drive to the Command Center. In order to save money for both the Town and County, the County has offered the Town its old planning department building to house the equipment along with $150,000 worth of improvements to that building in order to bring it up to industry standards. This would save both the Town and the County rent money, operating costs, and up front capital expenses of nearly $1,000,000 over the next 10 years. If the Town refuses the offer and moves into the Command Center, the County will be forced to consider the relative costs of its own dispatch center. We are expecting an answer within the next couple of weeks.
Executive Session: Pitman v. Taos County and Outlaw Garage.
In executive session, the Board directed its legal department to not attend the hearing before the Appellate Court to defend the proposition held by the prior Commission that the “Outlaw Garage” qualified as a cottage industry.