Property owner wants restrictions loosened
May 13, 2020
A property owner near Logan and Quay County commissioners on Monday expressed discontent with what they described as overly stringent restrictions at Ute Lake State Park.
Ute Lake State Park partially reopened May 1 but for day use only. Ute Lake’s south-side boat ramps remain closed. Conchas Lake State Park northwest of Tucumcari remains closed until at least May 16 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sid Strebeck, who with his son, Layne, is developing an airpark subdivision near Ute Lake’s south side, suggested the commission consult with Sheriff Russell Shafer on possibly adding patrols to the park. He said the park usually hires summer help, but they’re not deputized for law enforcement.
Strebeck indicated the park’s staff is too preoccupied with enforcing social-distancing rules, including having visitors park vehicles in every other space.
“They think they need to micromanage,” he said of the state. “It’s an overreach.”
Strebeck acknowledged the risk of COVID-19 with large family gatherings or crowds on beaches, but questioned whether such safeguards were needed for boaters on the lake.
“I feel a lot safer there than in a Walmart,” he said. “(The state) is trying to do one-size-fits-all, and it doesn’t work that way.”
Strebeck, noting the closures are hurting the livelihoods of business owners and the county’s coffers, said the state needs to open access on Ute Lake’s south side.
“We’re not only penalizing tourists, but we’re penalizing local retired people who want to fish,” he said.
Commissioner Franklin McCasland said the lack of access to state parks “is very frustrating.”
Commissioner Sue Dowell, while sympathetic with Strebeck, cautioned that sheriff’s deputies “have a whole lot on their plate” and may not be available for extra patrols. She expressed appreciation for Strebeck’s idea but noted: “Why are peons coming up with what should be the state’s responsibility?”
Commissioner Mike Cherry, also sympathetic to Strebeck, questioned whether local law enforcement could enforce New Mexico Department of Health rules.
Shafer had departed from the meeting Monday after giving his usual report and wasn’t present during Strebeck’s comments.
In other business:
• Commissioners approved the Quay County Detention Center’s video-arraignment agreement with the administrative office of the courts. County Manager Richard Primrose said the agreement, which essentially was a renewal, added no additional costs and used the same equipment as what the courthouse and jail uses now.
• Quay County Detention Center administrator Christopher Birch detailed how jail staff is dealing with COVID-19. He said jailers no longer have face-to-face encounters with detainees. Birch also said detainees have their body temperature checked and are asked about their vital signs and whether they had contact with people who contracted coronavirus.
• Commissioners approved increases to the county’s 2019-2020 general fund budget of $10,974 in additional funds for U.S. census outreach; $10,000 from the state for the election fund because of additional expenses because of COVID-19 precautions; and $16,100 for the fairgrounds maintenance budget for new coverings for the hog pens. They also approved a $28,000 increase from that fiscal year for the state’s debt reserve budget.
• County road superintendent Larry Moore said he recently received about $699,000 in money from the state for varying road projects for the next year, including a match waiver for a new bridge that would be built on old Route 66 east of San Jon. The existing 1930s bridge would be bypassed and left standing.
• Commissioners approved Lisa Albers and Lorrie McNamee to replace two retired directors for the Ute Lake Ranch Public Improvement District.
• Commissioners approved the county’s continued participation in the Clovis-based Eastern Plains Council of Governments. Primrose and commissioner Mike Cherry are the county’s representatives.
• Shafer said his office recently received a $5,000 grant for extra patrols in the county. He said his office also is ironing out minor data-input problems with the county’s new reporting program.