Every two weeks, Taos County commissioners meet to discuss and vote on county business, policies and projects. Citizens are invited to speak at the beginning of meetings, which take place at 105 Albright St. Video of the meetings is streamed live and posted online. Here's a rundown of some of the items discussed at last Tuesday's (Dec. 19) meeting. Commissioner Mark Gallegos was absent.
Holiday closures - The senior centers and programs in Chamisal, Questa and Taos will be closed Friday (Dec. 22), Monday (Dec. 25) and Jan. 1 for various holidays. Meals will be delivered to homebound seniors before each closure, according to Michael Trujillo, senior programs director.
All Taos County transfer stations will be closed Dec. 22 and reopen Tuesday (Dec. 26). They'll again be closed starting Dec. 29 and reopen Jan. 2.
The Taos County administrative offices will be closed from 1 p.m. Thursday (Dec. 21) until 8 a.m. Tuesday (Dec. 26). The offices will again be closed from Dec. 29 until Jan. 2.
Water rights protest - The Taos County Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 to move $150,000 within the 2017-18 budget to pay for upcoming costs associated with the county's ongoing protest of a controversial transfer of water rights out of the basin.
In July, the state engineer, the top water rights administrator in New Mexico, approved a transfer of 1,752 acre-feet of groundwater rights from Top of the World Farm in Costilla to a domestic water project in Santa Fe. Those water rights account for nearly half of the water rights needed to satisfy the Aamodt Settlement, a comprehensive and complex agreement to a water rights dispute involving four pueblos, the state and non-Native American water rights holders in the Pojoaque Valley, which is south of Taos.
The commission voted in August to appeal the transfer in a district court, especially because transferring such a large number of water rights out of the county could set a dangerous precedent - for the legal rights to use water in Northern New Mexico to be sold to governments or corporations downstream.
Taos County intends to secure a contract with Robles, Rael and Anaya, an Albuquerque law firm, to pursue the litigation, Taos County Manager Leandro Cordova said. The $150,000 - the upper limit of money the commission has committed to spend on the litigation - had to be moved from the general fund to the capital fund (for one-time, but long-term building projects) because the litigation is budgeted as a one-time expense and could extend past the fiscal year.
Jail audit - The commission completed a state-mandated review of the Taos County Adult Detention Center. Commissioner Candyce O'Donnell said they were "very impressed," but noted a "few minor deficiencies that I'm sure can be corrected" she said.
Commissioners O'Donnell and Tom Blankenhorn inspected the facility Dec. 11.
The written review of the jail said the facility is fully staffed, detention officers have received the required training, surveillance equipment is in good working order and records of fire inspections, annual food inspections and grievances procedures "were confirmed."
Commissioner Jim Fambro, chair of the board, also inspected the facility Dec. 15 and said in a written statement: "I was proud of the process and the facility that I toured, and I commend the staff on the appearance and the addition of the ‘paper trail' that they now have ... in most aspects. This is a substantial improvement from previous inspections by myself."
Chamisal transfer station - The transfer station has been reopened after more than a year. The center was renovated with $120,000 of capital outlay funds, which were allocated by the state Legislature. A new Occupational Safety and Health Administration-compliant shed and concrete barriers have been installed. The revamped "reuse center" is a central feature of the transfer station improvements. When folks from the area drop off their waste, they can also bring in any potentially useful items to the reuse center, where volunteers check the donations for their safety and quality and then display the items for the public to pick up.
Buildings - Cordova updated the council on several building projects that are underway. Repairs are ongoing at the Amalia Senior Center, which will not be open before Christmas, as projected earlier this month. The county is ready to purchase a pre-fabricated concession stand and restrooms for Filemon Sanchez Park; a contractor must now be hired. The Arroyo Seco Community Center has been closed due to septic issues; "the old school building is going to be quite a bit of time and energy" to reopen, Cordova said. The firehouse in San Cristobal is being constructed, though as with the Arroyo Seco center, the septic system has proved to be a challenge.
Days off - Commissioners approved a calendar of official holidays for the coming year that, as Fambro said, "match the state's recommended calendar." While the Taos Municipal Schools Board of Education voted Dec. 12 to recognize "Indigenous Peoples Day" on the second Monday of October (the federal Columbus Day), Taos County has again opted to recognize that day as "Fall Day."