The slippery slope of the state of area housing Colfax County commission talks housing, trains, more

by Carol Bridge
RATON — The Colfax County Commissioners met for a short meeting on April 10 to transact the county’s business.  Present were chairman Bill Sauble, commissioners Landon Newton and Roy Fernandez, and county manager Mary Lou Kern.
Raton citizen Jimmy Chavez spoke to the commissioners about problems with solid waste billing.  The policy is to bill all property that has a livable structure on it for solid waste disposal.  This is problematic because it is a matter of opinion what a livable structure is.  Does it have water and electricity, are people actually living in it, and if so, for how many months of the year?  Newton also raised the question about the 16 tiny homes that are at Eagle Nest.  Only 10 of them are actually being lived in.  Many homes in the county appear to be abandoned or unlivable, and the research involved in ascertaining the condition of each would be time consuming and still subject to opinion.  Sauble directed Kern to speak to the county attorney regarding policy to clarify the enforcement of livability and residence.
Newton gave an update on the county airport, recent economic development meetings that he attended, and told the commissioners that an economic conference would be happening in Angel Fire in July.  On another subject, he spoke about the efforts of Springer resident Dusty Davis and his offer to take area students to tour the Air Force Academy.  Area students will tour the academy on April 20, and Newton will accompany the group.
Sauble updated the group about the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant ($25 million to maintain and repair the rail lines) that has run into some difficulty.  BNSF has tied conditions to the plan and is insisting that its responsibility is only to ensure that the track is safe and suitable for freight trains.  Passenger trains require a higher standard, and it should be noted there have been no freight trains on this line for years.  Talk will go on with state legislators and hopefully a compromise can be reached.  The repairs are slated to begin February 2019 if an arrangement can be made with BNSF.
Kern gave an update on progress with the new detention center construction and construction at Gardner Bridge.  She informed the board that the magistrate court will be moving to the district court facility, although no firm date has been announced. Staffing and training continues at the detention center and Lt John Valdez has been hired to be an investigation specialist and is a certified police officer.
She also spoke about the possibility of adding an employee service- to allow a private company to offer short term emergency loans to be repaid by salary deductions.  The interest rate would be 24% per year, and the loan would be limited to 8% of the employee’s salary.
Fernandez questioned the security of the front office of the detention facility during construction and suggested that a full time bailiff be added to staff to free up an officer.
The next meeting will be April 24 at 9 am at the Colfax County Building on 3rd St in Raton.  The public is invited to address the board.