Commissioners to make decisions on tax, burn restrictions

By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor

At a special meeting on Friday, the Quay County Commission plans to make decisions on preliminary approval of two ordinances, one of which will require voter approval of a new gross receipts tax to pay the lion’s share of operating costs of the county’s emergency radio dispatch system.

The other ordinance will authorize the county to restrict some kinds of burning in the county, including some fireworks, due to continuing drought conditions. This ordinance will require commission approval on two readings.

The special meeting will begin at 9 a.m. in the commission’s meeting room at the Quay County Courthouse, 300 S. Third St., Tucumcari.

If approved, the new gross receipts tax equal to one-quarter of 1 percent of gross receipts would be imposed on businesses in the county, according to a draft version of the ordinance. The tax money would be dedicated to operation of an emergency communications center that will serve as a consolidated public safety answering center, meeting the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration’s definition of such a facility to authorize the tax.

If approved, the tax would be imposed beginning either Jan. 1, 2015 or July 1, 2015, depending on when the vote is certified and the adopted ordinance is delivered the finance and administration department, according to the draft ordinance.

Currently, central dispatch is housed inside the Tucumcari Police Department, which places the burden of immediate maintenance costs on the city.

The city’s operation of the dispatch center has raised issues about who pays what share of the cost of operating the center, city and county officials have said.

The funding issues are likely to be alleviated if most of the center’s operating costs are covered by a separate tax, giving the center’s management some independence from limited city or county government funding, city and county officials agree.

The dispatch center receives oversight from the Tucumcari/Quay Regional Emergency Communication Board, made up of representatives from the agencies that use the system, but its day-to-day operations are supervised by the city of Tucumcari’s police and fire departments.  The facility is housed in the police department and supervised by Tucumcari City Police personnel, but the manager of the facility is Assistant Fire Chief Scot Jaynes.

Tucumcari City Manager Doug Powers said a gross receipts tax would reduce the city’s percentage of operating costs paid and allow the communications center to hire another dispatcher, raise wages and provide a reserve fund for repairs.

The county’s share of dispatch center money comes from the county’s general fund, Richard Primrose, county manager, said.  If voters enact the new gross receipts tax, he said, the money would be designated to cover a majority of the dispatch center’s annual budget and free general fund money for other county purposes.

City and county officials said the tax will not cover all costs of the facility but will cover most of such costs.

The burn ordinance, if the commission approves it, will give the county authority to restrict campfires, open fires, open burning of vegetation, smoke-producing materials that create fire hazards and some kinds of fireworks.

The ordinance would, as needed, allow the county to ban sale and use of stick-type rockets, helicopters and serial spinners, missile-type rockets, and firecrackers.  In addition, the ordinance would allow the county to limit use of cone fountains, crackling devices, cylindrical fountains, flitter sparklers, ground spinners, illuminating torches, toy smoke devices, wheels and mine fireworks in unincorporated county areas.

The ordinance would authorize bans on burning in case of drought and fire hazards, on “red flag” warning days declared by the National Weather Service, or if “non-Class A” materials like petroleum products, plastic, metal, rubber, pressure-treated lumber, creosote-treated lumber, painted lumber, asphalt shingles are involved.

Open burning would be allowed except in time of severe drought and fire danger, as determined by the county commissioners, the draft ordinance says.  Persons planning to conduct a burn would be required to notify Central Dispatch.

The ordinance would also require that the burn is attended at all times; allow burning only between one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset; prohibit the burning of refuse; require property owners and managers to maintain fire controls, including fire lines, water sources or other means of putting out the fire;  require persons conducting a burn to consider wind and weather conditions  before starting the burn; and require that only Class A combustibles, including dry vegetation, branches, grass, tree limbs, weeds and clean, non-treated natural lumber would be allowed to be burned.

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