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Colfax County Commission met in regular session

Commissioners talk fire, airports, and more

by Carol Bridge

RATON — The Colfax County Commission met recently to transact the business of the county. Present were chairman Bill Sauble, commissioners Roy Fernandez and Landon Newton, and county manager Mary Lou Kern.

Fire miscommunications a growing problem

Keven Pool of the Moreno Valley Fire Department addressed the commissioners with his concerns about communications within the volunteer fire departments of Colfax County. He’s worried about the lack of compatible communication systems between volunteer fire departments, saying that with present equipment, multiple dispatches must be made, hindering the effectiveness of the firefighters. He also noted that the internet is unreliable at times, and has gone down in the past.

Pool asked for a unified command system and suggested that by buying the equipment at the same time from the same vendor, it might save money and ensure better communications within the county. Newton asked for research into any possible grant money. Communication between the sheriff’s office, the New Mexico State Police, and within the network of fire departments in the county is currently in flux and although it is is expected that digital will become the mandated method, nothing has been decided by the state at this time.

Planned fires continues to be an issue between outlying volunteer fire departments and the county. Pool also addressed this issue, and made his position clear that he thinks that such fires are important for keeping local people trained. This was answered by Kern, who restated the information given at the last meeting by Colfax County Fire Chief Larry Osborn and county attorney Terrence Kamm. Kern stated there are several other trainings available from state and federal agencies that would provide training with no liability to the county. She reminded the board that the Sierra Grande fire started as a planned burn. Osborn’s concern is that there are eight different volunteer fire departments in the county and that they have not all used the protocol that is in place. Fernandez stated that all volunteer departments must understand that it is imperative that they follow protocols.

TIGER grant

The recent success of the TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) Grant for the Amtrak line that runs through Colfax County was discussed, with congratulations going to Sauble. Newton explained that Colfax County was awarded $16 million that will go to repair track, making a long stretch of grade four rail more reliable and faster. For the next year, the county will act as the fiscal agency for this grant, which will challenge staff with a new and unfamiliar task. Last year the fiscal agency was La Junta, and Rick Cline from the La Junta office has offered to assist Colfax County.

Management delayed for Angel Fire Airport

Discussion is ongoing with no action taken regarding the management of the Angel Fire Airport. Pros and cons of turning the management over to a private firm was again discussed. A reference was made about the Raton Municipal Airport and its successful arrangement with Express Aviation. Newton asked for a detailed inventory and agreement to make available to private airport managing companies.

Philmont Scout Ranch requests support

County assessor Linda Gallegos gave information regarding Philmont Ranch. She asked for a letter of support from the commissioners that recognized the positive economic impact that Philmont has on the area and also informed the board that there will be a grand opening of the new Boy Scout Museum on September 15.

In other business:

Robert Thompson with the county’s roads and bridges, department spoke about the ongoing efforts to lease new loaders. Undersheriff Leonard Baca informed the board that his office has revised the on-call protocol to be more clear and fair. An agreement between the village of Eagle Nest and the Colfax Sheriff’s Department was renewed. The construction progress at the detention center was updated by Kern, along with progress regarding the Gardner Bridge.

The next meeting will be on March 27 at 9 am at the Colfax County Building.

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