Commission approves temporary reduction of meetings
April 1, 2020
A divided Quay County commission on Friday approved a temporary reduction of its regular meetings from two to one during April in an effort to slow the spread and risk of coronavirus.
District II Commissioner Mike Cherry made a motion to cancel the commission’s April 7 meeting with the stipulation that county manager Richard Primrose can call a special meeting if needed. District III Commissioner Franklin McCasland seconded the motion.
The commission’s next regularly scheduled meeting would be April 27.
District I Commissioner Sue Dowell, who opposed a previous suggestion months ago to reduce the number of commission meetings, voted against the measure. Cherry and McCasland voted for it, giving it a 2-1 margin of passage.
The meeting Friday morning was held in a mostly empty Quay County courthouse. One sheriff’s deputy monitored the side entrance and instructed people to use a hand-sanitizer dispenser as they came inside.
More than 10 people sat in the commission’s chambers during the meeting but sat more than six feet from each other as health officials have recommended. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham imposed a public gathering limit of more than five people last week, but the edict does not apply to “public officials or public employees in the course and scope of their employment.”
While acknowledging the situation was different from the previous meeting-reduction idea, Dowell said she opposed cutting back on the number of meetings because she wanted to have the ability to express and discuss constituents’ concerns more often and be accessible to them. She also expressed the value of “keeping things in routine” during fearful times.
Dowell also noted Quay County had no known cases of coronavirus.
“I don’t feel I’m hugely at risk because I’m here with you people,” she said.
Cherry said he would recommend reducing the number of meetings in April “to err on the side of caution” during the pandemic. He also noted he refers constituents’ concerns to county manager Richard Primrose, who promptly addresses them.
McCasland echoed Cherry’s comments about the pandemic — “I feel we need to err on the side of safety” — and added: “I don’t think we need to wait 30 days to air problems to the county manager.”
McCasland also said he wants to keep county employees as safe as possible from the virus. He noted several neighboring counties already have coronavirus cases, and Tucumcari hosts many non-locals at its grocery and motels because of Interstate 40 and U.S. 54.
“The least amount of contact we can have in the next 30 days is what I’m leaning toward,” he said of having fewer meetings. “We’re doing it for public safety. We’re not serving the public if we’re too sick.”
Zamora, the county’s emergency management coordinator, said he would hold daily coordination calls this week with mayors, fire officials, emergency medical technicians, police, health clinics and state officials in an effort to tailor a message for Quay County residents.
On a related note, the commission passed a resolution declaring the county an emergency area because of the pandemic. The declaration ensures the county access to aid and relief programs from the state and federal government. Zamora said it would reimburse 75% of the county’s costs during such efforts.
County Clerk Ellen White, her voice cracking with emotion, thanked the sheriff’s office and cleaning staff for helping “keep us safe” during the pandemic.
In other business:
n Commissioners approved a resolution asking for safety improvements at U.S. 54 and Airport Road, aka Quay Road Ai. The resolution stated a Quay County family’s child died there during a collision with a semi truck in 2002, and “the approach … does not allow traffic to approach at a slow and safe rate, creating numerous vehicles to be forced off the Highway and numerous accidents.”
The resolution requests the state to build an acceleration and deceleration lane at the intersection.
Dowell compiled 20 pages of news articles and comments from residents via email, texts, phone calls and Facebook about accidents and close calls the intersection.
“I think we need to focus on this issue because our residents are crying out for it,” she said.
• The commission approved two ordinances that give the county the option of unrestricted access to its gross receipts tax revenue.
• The commission approved a Public Employee Retirement Association agreement with the Jordan Fire Department.
• The commission approved a proclamation for Child Abuse Prevention Month in April.