Commissioners consider shift on legislative priorities

By Tony Parra

Roosevelt County commissioners may reconsider a decision they made in regards to not sending a letter with their legislative priorities to Gov. Bill Richardson and the Department of Finance and Administration after the Roosevelt County Commission meeting on Tuesday.
The commissioners have decided to investigate their decision a little further after they made their initial decision in a September commission meeting. The commissioners voted four votes in favor of not sending the letter, to one vote opposed.
Commission Chairman Dennis Lopez, who did want to send a letter with legislative priorities to the governor, said he will discuss Richardson’s intentions with him when Richardson visits Portales tonight. Lopez said he will also discuss the possibility of extending the deadline, which was Oct. 18, to send in the priorities.
Richardson will be in Buchanan Hall at 6 p.m. on the campus of Eastern New Mexico University to discuss legislative priorities.
Commissioners said the biggest reason they were opposed to sending the letter to the governor was because they felt it was taking power away from legislators.
Commissioners did agree on three priorities to send to the Finance Authority Oversight Committee. County Administrator Charlene Hardin said she will be giving a presentation on the legislative priorities to the committee. The request is from the legislative council, according to Hardin.
Commissioners decided on the three legislative priorities as roads, detention center and fairgrounds.
In other business at the meeting:
• Roosevelt County Corrections Administrator Jesse Luera said the Detention Center’s inmate population has risen to 83. The population rise has forced Luera to continue to transfer inmates to Dickens County, where there are presently nine RCDC inmates.
Luera warned in previous meetings the numbers will climb after the summer break. The inmate population has done just that since Luera reported 72 inmates in the Aug. 17 commission meeting.
• Beki Hall of the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Department also updated the commissioners on advertising for an opening for a deputy. She said there has been interest from a person in Artesia and another from Arkansas, but no applications so far. Hall said the deputy number has dwindled to six.
• Roosevelt County Clerk Joyce Fraze updated the commissioners on the status of early voting, the alternate polling site and to set a date for the canvas.
“We’ve been snowed under in early voting,” Fraze said. “We’ve been working early and late. There seems to be a lot of interest in this election.”
Fraze said there were 22 voters in the alternate voting site on the first day (Saturday) early voting could take place. There has been so much interest, that Fraze reported 11,591 registered voters in Roosevelt County.
“This is the biggest number of registered voters I can remember,” Fraze said. “It’s been a while. The last time I remember a number of registered voters being close to this number was in the 70s.”
Fraze went through previous registered voters records and found registered voter numbers as low as 6,941 in the 1988 general election and as high as 10,149 registered voters in 1978.