Commission Chair Martha Salas

Commission Chair Martha Salas listens to comments by Commissioner Ray Martinez.
John Larson | El Defensor Chieftain

School districts are finding that the county’s funding of $5,000 for four hot spots is not meeting the needs of remote-learning students. At its September 22 meeting, the Socorro County Board of County Commissioners approved a second round of hot spot scholarships for Socorro and Magdalena Schools.

Magdalena Municipal School District and La Promesa Elementary School are both receiving another $5,000.

Socorro Consolidated School District currently has less of a need and will get $1,250.

Alamo Community School was not included in the second round of hot spot funding.

Commissioner Ray Martinez said he spoke to Alamo Navajo School Board president Raymond Apachito Sr., who told him hot spots “may not be the way to go.” Alternatives are being looked at, he said.

Commission Chair Martha Salas said hotspots there are not working well because of the terrain.

“People are really spread out and there are a lot of hills, mountains,” Salas said. “If you go out to where people really live, you can’t get anything. Not even phone service. Some people have to drive out just to get cell phone service.

“So, what they’re trying to do over there is put up high antennas in order to get good coverage,” she said. “You know, they already have so many obstacles. No running water for some of them. Even though they may be hooked up to the system in Alamo they get low water pressure or no pressure at all in certain times of the day.”

County Manager Michael Hawkes said that topography was the main reason but another factor was that Alamo was getting money elsewhere.

“They have received one grant for $168,000 and another one for technology for $386,000,” Hawkes said.

“So they never got back to me, asking for support, after, I guess,  they got the news that they got all that money.

He said of the two seperate grants, one was coming from Navajo Nation Department of Dine Education.

“As a matter of fact, I’m trying to join in with the county, the city and New Mexico Tech on the analysis about bringing broadband into the county,” Hawkes said.

Salas added that she read an analysis done by neighboring Sierra County that showed that more people don’t have good internet than those that do.

“So, rural is really hurting, not only for schools but for anybody that has to be virtual,” she said.

In other business the commission:

  • Heard a report from Hawkes on progress going on with the Sabinal Community Center. He said a walk-through revealed several areas that needed more work and believed that everything should be corrected within a week or so. On completion besides community business, the center will be available to rent out for private events, such as weddings. “With the pandemic still with us, it also has the capability for outdoor dining,” he said. “it’s got 1,200 square feet, plus with the outside, there’s a total of 3,000 square feet that can be rented.”
  • Approved a grant agreement to purchase and equip Socorro County sheriff’s department vehicles.
  • Approved a motion to open overnight camping at Escondida Lake, as allowed under the governor’s amended emergency health order. Campsites will be limited to 10 people.
  • Approved a resolution to draft a Speed Hump Policy. The policy would take into consideration crashes caused by speed and other factors. Current speed humps would be grandfathered in and new ones could be petitioned for by neighborhoods and residents.
  • Approved a request for distribution of funds from the Socorro General Hospital mill levy for the 3rd and 4th quarter of the fiscal year in the amount of $250,000 per quarter. Hospital administrator Veronica Pound, who was at the meeting, said, “I appreciate your support and helping to spread the word.”

The county commission will meet next on Oct. 13 at 10 a.m. It will be streamed live and recorded on Socorro County’s Facebook page. Public comment can be made by email 24 hours prior to meeting start time at [email protected]