Meth control central focus for council

By Tony Parra

City councilors are in favor of passing an ordinance to place restrictions on the sale of nasal decongestants are used to create methamphetamine.
City Manager Debi Lee is anticipating to have the notice of intent on the agenda of the next meeting, set for Aug. 2. She said more than likely, a public hearing will take place in August and adoption could take place in early September.
The ordinance would require people buying medications with pseudoephedrine to fill out a registration form with phone and address information and give the retailer photo identification. Another requirement would limit the sale of such drugs to three boxes.
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler said law enforcement officials have received tips on purchases from local merchants on a tip line called Meth Watch.
“Retailers are finding out (these products) are being used in the manufacturing of meth,” Chandler said. “They are saying, ‘I’d rather not carry it.’”
The ordinance is meant to target solid forms of pseudoephedrine. Chandler said many stores in Curry and Roosevelt counties carry products that contain pseudoephedrine in liquid form. However, he said it’s extremely difficult to extract pseudoephedrine from that form and he’s never tried anybody who had done it in the district.
In other business at the meeting councilors rejected an ordinance to raise the salary of the municipal judge and alter the hours of the municipal court during a city meeting on Tuesday evening.
Four councilors — Jake Lopez, Ron Jackson, Gary Watkins and Mike Miller — rejected the ordinance while Dianne Parker voted against the motion to reject the ordinance. The ordinance was to increase the salary from $15,000 a year to $20,000 a year, with stipulations on hours worked per week.
The ordinance would have taken effect next March after the upcoming judge election. If a different ordinance is put into place, it will be for the next municipal judge — or for current judge Fred Arnold, should he seek and gain re-election.
The issues at hand are the stipulations tied in with the increase. The ordinance stated that if the municipal judge does not work more than 20 hours in one week then he or she will not be paid $1,666 a month, but rather $1,291. Arnold disagreed with the concept of the city dictating working terms for an elected position.
“As I stated before,” Arnold said. “This is an illegal ordinance and you (city council) don’t have the authority to enact it.”
City Attorney Stephen Doerr said the city council does have that authority.
Arnold also took issue to the city council wanting to change the hours of operation from the municipal court to hours consistent with city hall’s hours — from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The court is currently open from 7:30 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
City councilors said they have received complaints about the court’s current hours. Arnold did concede the council has the authority to change the hours, but said the current hours better serve the community because people can visit the court before and after work hours.