District 5 Commissioner Ray Martinez will officially be Chairman of the Socorro County Commission, taking over from District 3 Commissioner Manuel Anaya. Commissioner from District 2 Craig Secatero has been elected in the role of Vice-Chairman.
“Being the chair is only guiding the meetings,” Martinez said. “It is not a power above anybody up here. That is why it is called a commission. That is what I know we all want and expect as we work together. I would like to thank Commissioner Anaya for his guidance that lead to this position.”
Commissioners Gonzales, Duggins and Anaya showed support during the vote for Martinez in the nomination as the new chairman was approved.
In a separate matter, broadband access was a topic of discussion for the Socorro County Commissioner’s first meeting of 2022. Several areas in the county, specifically in Alamo and San Antonio, have not had widely available broadband access. This affects members of the community who are working from home as well as kids attending school from home.
James Robnett with NRAO came to the commissioners representing the broadband committee, which has been working to get broadband coverage throughout the city and county. A feasibility study commissioned by the committee showed that Socorro County has the second-worst broadband access in the state.
The broadband committee includes representatives from the county, the city, NM Tech, the Socorro Consolidated School District and NRAO. Since the city has already found an internet service provider, TDS, that is working toward coverage for the city of Socorro, the committee has shifted focus to get broadband coverage throughout the rest of the county.
According to Robnett, there is too much funding floating around, making it easy for ISPs, internet service providers, to find other communities to work in.
“They look at Socorro and it’s not a really good return on investment.”
This means it’s even more important to advocate for funding for Socorro County to get broadband coverage. Robnett wants different stakeholders to advocate in a unified way for funding. The next steps include getting on the radar of the state broadband office, lobbying the state for national funds and trying to get ISPs committed, said Robnett.
County Manager Michael Hawkes has already gotten letters of support from the Alamo Chapter, several state representatives, Magdalena Schools, the Mayor of Magdalena, Belen Consolidated School District and the two wildlife refuges in the county.
In other business:
-Hawkes is concerned about staffing at the Socorro County Detention Center. The detention center has 12 employees at present. Hawkes is concerned the county needs to find funding to improve benefits and pay at the jail to incentivize people to come work in Socorro. In a follow up interview Hawkes said, “Counties like ours are being thrown under the kitchen sink. What happens without enough manpower? We can’t be competitive with other counties.”