Serving the High Plains

Quay County Commission approves budget resolution

The Quay County Commission on Monday somewhat reluctantly but unanimously approved a resolution to adopt a $15.747 million budget for fiscal year 2021 — an increase of nearly 17% from the previous year’s budget.

County Finance Director Cheryl Simpson the budget’s increase mainly comes from capital improvement projects such as a new $3.2 million bridge on old Route 66 east of San Jon, road work and new firetrucks for a few rural departments. State money would cover much of those projects. The previous year’s budget totaled $13.475 million.

Simpson said the budget contains 3% pay raises for many county workers and no layoffs, despite an anticipated reduction in revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A bone of contention emerged when county manager Richard Primrose said he was implementing a $1-an-hour increase to the base pay of correction center employees, to $13 an hour. Primrose said the pay hike would take effect retroactively July 19 for their Aug. 1 paychecks. He said facility was having trouble retaining employees at the previous base pay.

Commissioner Mike Cherry said he understood why corrections center workers received a raise, but it didn’t sit well with him.

“I hate to give one department an increase and not everyone else,” he said.

Commissioner Sue Dowell said she understood Cherry’s stance but “it doesn’t bother me at all” corrections officers would get raises. She said law enforcement across the country was being subjected to “unjustifiable” attacks in recent weeks. She said it bothered her more that elected state officials were given mandated and higher raises than regular workers.

Dowell also praised as “heroic” that Primrose and Simpson crafted a budget without employee layoffs.

In other county business:

• Commissioners approved an annual memorandum of agreement with the county and the state’s Rural Primary Health Care Act program that requests $106,920 in funding. C. Renee Hayoz, administrator of Presbyterian Medical Services, said most would be used for wages and salaries of employees. Last year, the county requested $82,200 and received more than $111,000. Some of that money was used to buy a retinal camera to help diagnose diabetes patients.

• Simpson said the county would hold a public hearing before its regular meeting Aug. 24 to craft a preliminary version of its infrastructure capital improvement plan for fiscal years 2022 to 2026. The wish list of projects would be listed by priority and fiscal year, with an adoption date of Sept. 14. She said anyone who wished to include a project on the list should attend the hearing.

• Road superintendent Larry Moore said an estimate to replace a second bridge on old Route 66 east of San Jon came in higher than expected — about $5 million. He said he would change the scope of the work to lower the cost. He said environmental studies on both bridges had been completed and thus would lessen the replacement cost of the second bridge. Moore said bids to replace the other bridge would go out soon, with an anticipated construction start of April or May.

• The commission approved an annual service contract with the New Mexico State Library Rural Bookmobile East program for $1,050.

• During her DWI program report, administrator Andrea Shafer said the program had lacked getting proper paperwork in some cases because Tucumcari’s magistrate court had been closed due to COVID-19. She said her office also was closed because of the pandemic but would open it to certain clients if they wore a mask.

• The commission approved a fiscal year 2021 predator-abatement plan with Aric Costa, New Mexico Department of Agriculture wildlife specialist, for $40,250. Primrose said that was $1,000 more than last year, and donations from ranchers help defray some costs. Costa said activity by feral hogs had slowed. Dowell asked him to “put feelers out” to ranchers about bobcats or panthers attacking livestock. She said one neighbor had lost up to 10 animals because of a predator.