Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Boat raises heated discussion


January 29, 2020

Steve Hansen

Miss Kristy, an abandoned boat that rested on a Tucumcari street for years, rests on city of Tucumcari property on Whitmore Avenue. The boat's fate drew heated discussion Thursday before the Tucumcari City Commission.

"Miss Kristy" is the name of an orphaned pontoon boat that has haunted Tucumcari Streets for several years, and it produced heated accusations and rebuttals at Thursday's Tucumcari City Commission meeting as well as plans to reconsider the city's nuisance ordinance.

Miss Kristy rests in crumbling condition, with peeling metal siding, exposed wood and faded interior upholstery, on city property off Whitmore Avenue.

The exchanges Thursday began when Gilbert Pacheco, a Tucumcari resident, accused city officials of lying about their intentions to dispose of the watercraft two years ago.

"You said you were going to do code enforcement," he said. "You made a false statement. It was a lie full of bullcrap."

City manager Britt Lusk, Pacheco said, lied when he said he was going to find the boat's owner. Pacheco said Mayor Ruth Ann Litchfield and Mayor Pro Tem Todd Duplantis also lied when they said the boat would be taken care of.

"You didn't correct it," he said.

The boat's owner has "not been fined," Pacheco said, hinting the boat's owner was known.

"If it was anyone else in the city, that boat would be gone."

"We've begged, pleaded and demanded" the boat be removed from the streets, he said, but the boat still has not been disposed of or destroyed.

Pacheco spoke early in the meeting, then left.

As he walked out, Lusk invited him to stay for the rest of the meeting to hear more about the boat.

In his city manager's report, Lusk said he did not know where Pacheco was getting "the misinformation he received."

"He did not come to our offices," he said, where he would have learned what the city has been trying to do with the boat.

"The pontoon boat's owner has never been reached," he said.

City officials, including Mark Martinez, the assistant city manager, have examined the boat for tags that may lead to discovering the boat's owner, Lusk said, but the New Mexico State Police have not responded to requests for assistance in identifying its owner.

The city moved the boat off the street to city property, he said, but could not move the boat further because the city does not have a proper trailer.

The trailer the city used, he said, isn't adequate to the task of moving the boat any further.

On destroying the boat, "we can't just chop somebody's property up," he said. "Unfortunately, there are things we have to do."

He invited anyone who wants to know what was happening with the boat to set an appointment to talk with him.

District 1 Commissioner Ralph Moya took Pacheco's side.

"This has taken a huge amount of time," he said.

He said he has talked to a group of people from the neighborhood and said he is concerned about safety issues and children playing on the boat.

City administrators, he said, are using the lost owner as an excuse for "procrastination."

Lusk shot back: "There has been no procrastination."

He listed lack of response from state police, the need for registration searches "and a whole list of hoops" that need to be jumped through.

Moya said he has done property title searches that have not taken as long.

"You're not a city," Lusk responded, indicating the city needs to follow more stringent rules.

Lusk also noted there are not a lot of children playing in the vicinity of the boat.

He also invited residents to "come in and get the facts" from City Hall.

Moya later said the boat issue and others have led him to question the city's code enforcement and the nuisance ordinance approved about five years ago that has guided current code-enforcement efforts.

"We have to take a stand or abolish the enforcement code," he said. "We need to make it apply equally to everybody."

Tucumcari is a "huge community," he said, referring to its physical size compared to its population.

The city, he said, should not adopt a code adopted by another city but make sure its code applies to its own needs.

Litchfield agreed the code needs a review.

"It needs to be reworked," she said, "but we need one. If we abolish the code, the town will go to pot."

District 4 Commissioner Chris Arias asked that all commissioners receive a copy of the ordinance for review and enough time to review it.

Commissioners and Lusk agreed a public work session should be held in early March to review the ordinance.

The commission also:

• Accepted a $480,000 grant from the New Mexico Economic Development Department in capital outlay allocations to help fund improvements on Second Street in downtown, where the city will spend $4 million from various sources for reconstruction and improvements. Adding $72,000 in New Mexico Department of Transportation funds and $48,000 in "in-kind" contributions from the city raises the total available through the grant to $600,000.

• Approved the use of $43,535 in grants to amend an engineering contract with Bohannon Houston to make the Second Street project "shovel-ready," Lusk said.

• Authorized the Tucumcari Fire Department's purchase of a used ladder truck for $150,000 in New Mexico Fire Fund money. The truck will replace the city's current ladder truck that is 31 years old, Fire Chief Doug Hogan said. The new truck includes advances not available on the current truck. In response to questions from Moya, Hogan said the newer truck has been inspected "bumper to bumper" by a certified emergency vehicle mechanic.

• Authorized Hogan to seek a $25,000 grant from the New Mexico Department of Health's Emergency Medical Services fund to purchase and repair training equipment, medical supplies and equipment.

• Approved a report on financial activity for the second quarter of fiscal 2020, which ended Dec. 31, that shows the city has a surplus of $421,282, compared with budgeted amounts, city financial director Rachelle Arias said.

In items from commissioners, Duplantis asked whether the city's water department could improve warning systems for customers late in paying water bills. Litchfield said the gas company places red tags on meters as a warning to late-paying customers and asked whether the city could consider a similar system.

In remarks to the commission during its public comments section, Tucumcari/Quay County Chamber of Commerce director Carmen Runyan reviewed participation in recent community events and said she was "blown away by the commitment, dedication and passion" she has seen among community volunteers.

If such attitudes continue, she added, "I don't see why we can't do great things."


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