Magdalena Community Cemetery will be the final resting place for unclaimed indigent decedents.

Due to a state law that mandates county governments to be responsible for deceased indigent persons, Socorro County, which has no official cemetery, has turned to Magdalena for help with the interment of eight human remains.

At its Feb. 22 meeting, Magdalena Village Board of Trustees gave its approval to a Memorandum of Understanding with the county for the burial of eight cremated decedents in the Magdalena Community Cemetery at no cost.

The state statute states that it “is the duty of the board of county commissioners of each county in this state to cause to be decently interred or cremated the body of any unclaimed decedent or indigent person. The county shall ensure that the body is buried or cremated no later than thirty days after a determination has been made that the body has not been claimed, but no less than two weeks after death. If the body is cremated, the county shall ensure that the cremated remains are retained and stored for no less than two years in a manner that allows for identification of the remains. After the expiration of two years the cremated remains may be disposed of, provided the county retains a record of the place and manner of disposition for not less than five years after such disposition.”

The MOU says that Magdalena will provide the county with designated burial plots on an as-needed basis and will make sure the plots will be appropriately laid out.

In return, the county will provide limited grading and maintenance to cemetery road. The county and village may agree to more frequent maintenance on an as needed basis.

“The county manager approached me a couple of weeks ago,” Mayor Richard Rumpf said. “We picked out an area in the southeast corner of the cemetery.”

District 5 Commissioner Ray Martinez said in a message to the community that County Manager Michael Hawkes brought the issue up at a previous county commission meeting.

“For those of you that might not know, in most of our county cemeteries there is a burial charge,” Martinez said. “At our last county meeting this issue came up and the County Manager told us how much it was going to cost (the county) for currently necessary burials. He also told us that the county receives requests for help from those who cannot afford the costs of burying someone who recently passed.”

Martinez said he recommended that Hawkes contact Rumpf about using the community cemetery in Magdalena.

“I did so because at (Magdalena’s) cemetery there is no charge for burial, a requirement imposed by the family who donated the land to the Village,” he said. “Here is another example of two entities working together for the betterment of our county citizens. Working together anything can be accomplished.”

In other business:

  • The board gave its approval, following a public hearing, to publish Ordinance 2021-01 which adjusts rates for water, sewer and trash pickup. The ordinance establishes a joint utility service, a village service for the collection and disposal of trash and amends “all previous ordinances relating to water and sewer service; providing for the imposition and collection of fees, collection charges, utility rates; defining application and services policies; and prescribing penalties for violations of its provisions.” Trustee Donna Dawson pointed out that lower income families would be affected the most, but Rumpf said the increase would amount to an increase of $2 for water, $2 for trash, $4 for sewer, amounting to an overall increase of $8 across the board. “I understand it’s not good timing but overall, our water rate is probably half of what it is for other communities of our size in the state,” he said. “It’s been underfunded for quite a few years. We have to at least break even on what we’re doing.” Rumpf cited having to meet loan payments “when the water well is completed next year,” as well as the extra expenditure for a new trash truck. “As far as sewer, there’s long term costs with the lagoons,” he said. “We need to start adding microbes to reduce the sediment. They’re very effective but they’re not very cheap.”
  • The board approved Resolution 2021-02, which lowers leasing rates for hangar space at Magdalena’s airport. Rumpf said the reason he brought this up was that the leasing rate for the hangars was “out of line” for what they are. The hangars, which have dirt floors, are currently leased for $1,500 per year. The resolution reduces the rate to $900 a year, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2022.
  • The board renewed the franchise agreement Socorro Electric Cooperative, which, in effect, allows the co-op access to village property for power poles. The franchise fee paid to the village is set at three percent of the gross receipts paid by village users of electricity.
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