By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
As expected, the Quay County Commission on Friday gave preliminary approval of an ordinance that 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.
In addition on Friday, the commission gave first-reading approval to an ordinance that would authorize the county to restrict some kinds of burning in the county, including some fireworks, due to continuing drought conditions.
These ordinances both must now be advertised and voted on again for a second reading. After the second reading, the burn ordinance could be adopted. The gross receipts tax ordinance would be subject to voter approval. That election is currently planned for September, commissioners said.
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 to the finance and administration department, according to the draft ordinance.
Last year’s operational budget for the dispatch center was $354,198. Tucumcari and Quay County each pay 45 percent of these costs, at $159,389 each. Other communities, including Logan, San Jon contribute the remaining 10 percent.
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.
If approved, the tax could eventually fund a proposed plan to move the dispatch center from the Tucumcari Police Department into a building of its own.
Village of Logan Manager Larry Wallin said that by making the dispatch center independent, the communities that use the center could have more direct influence on policy, wages, training and personnel than they do now.
Primrose said the an independent dispatch center could also make more grant opportunities available.
The burn ordinance, if the commission approves it, will authorize the county 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 said. Persons planning to conduct a burn would be required to notify Central Dispatch.