Socorro Consolidated School District Assistant Superintendent Denise Cannon accepts a $10,000 check from county commission Chair Manuel Anaya. The money comes from the $100,000 scholarship fund the commission created last year from the CARES Act to help create broadband access for SCSD students in outlying communities. Pictured (from left): Craig Secatero, Glenn Duggins, Cannon, Anaya, Joe Gonzales, and Ray Martinez.
John Larson | El Defensor Chieftain

Motorists attempting to access Interstate 25 by the northbound onramp at San Antonio have learned to look and think quickly before merging. The issue of the onramp was raised by a county resident’s letter to the county commission.
“We get letters from concerned citizens all the time,” County Manager Michael Hawkes said.
At the Jan. 26 county commission meeting Hawkes, who also uses the Exit 139 onramp to get to Socorro, said he understood the citizen’s concern.
“If you try to get back on the interstate to go north to Socorro you know how short that is,” he said. “If you get clearance, you are on your gas pedal. Sometimes people have to come to a complete stop because the interstate has the right of way.”
In response to the letter, Hawkes conducted  data analysis search on the Department of Transportation website looking for all crashes at that location, expecting to find a sizeable number of accidents.
“I found that there actually haven’t been many crashes there,” he said. “So, I guess it’s not the most dangerous, as far as the number of crashes analysis.”
Hawkes wondered if the reason for the fewer accidents was because people are cautious, “because it is so awkward.”
“We will send DOT another letter and see where it goes,” he said.
In other business:
• The commissioners passed Resolution 2021-24, “Supporting The Reinstatement Of A State Meat Inspection Program In New Mexico.” The resolution points out that 80 percent of the meatpacking industry needs are serviced by only four USDA-certified companies, and that changes to the State Meat Inspection Program are needed because the current system fails to support New Mexico meat producers.
• The commission passed Resolution 2021-18, naming new members to the Lodger’s Tax Board. Normally, the five-member board is made up of representatives from the lodging sector, representatives or tourist-related businesses, and one member of the general public. However, after the word went out only three people asked to be considered, Hawkes said.
Approved by the commissioners to the Lodger’s Tax Board were Billy Trujillo, owner of Bosque Bird Watchers RV Park, Janice Argabright of The Owl Bar and Café, and Timothy Norris of Concho Hills, Magdalena. County Attorney Adren Nance said a quorum would still be met with three.
• The commission discussed Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District’s Partial Season Leasing Program. The PSLP is designed to financially compensate irrigators to voluntarily suspend irrigation water delivery for part of the growing season.
The purpose of the PSLP is to reduce river diversions and consumptive use of water for forage and other crops during a time when yield is typically low. This is expected to increase the flexibility of the District’s water resources during the time of year when Rio Grande Compact deliveries and endangered species obligations are more difficult to meet.
• The commission discussed selling the county’s abundance of highway millings; the big black piles of black gravel picked up by the shaver from the highway.
“We have limited distribution capabilities,” he said. “Some that were donated to us that we want to let the community buy them if they want to buy them. If a government entity wants it we can give it to them, but otherwise, people must pay for them, because of the anti-donation clause. The millings would be sold for a fair market price, and the buyer must agree to certain guidelines for use, such as they can’t use them near a source of water.”
“We haven’t finished the forms. Once we finish the forms concerning liability and possibly limiting the amount per sale.”
• The commission considered an MOU with the City of Socorro for animal shelter services. “We’re negotiating with the city in the MOU, and in the meantime, the city is still sheltering animals we receive with a charge for housing them,” he said. The commission also discussed a position of an animal control/ordinance officer.
• The commission awarded $10,000 from CARES Act funding to the Socorro Consolidated School District to use for improving internet access for students in outlying areas.
Elsewhere, the County Clerk’s office was closed to the public on Jan. 22 due to COVID-19 safety protocols.
“We closed the office because of possible exposure with an employee. The employee had been at work, so we closed everything down and worked to getting everybody tested,” he said. “In the interim, we sanitized and fogged it. “
He said no one in the office has since tested positive. “We err on the side of caution and make sure everybody’s good to go,” he said.