By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer
Rules for controlled burns remain unchanged in Roosevelt County, and property owners don’t have to remove trash and tumbleweeds from their land and yards.
The Roosevelt County Commission took no action during its meeting Tuesday in the county courthouse on a request for an ordinance that would require property owners to clean up trash, debris and tumbleweeds.
In asking for the ordinance, Linda Giddings, who lives west of Portales, brought before the commission a petition she said had 170 signatures. She has complained of trashing blowing onto roads or other’s property, or being scattered by dogs.
“We really all feel like the tumbleweeds are becoming a fire hazard,” Giddings said.
Giddings also said trash decreases property values, endangers health and attracts illegal dumping.
Commission Chairman David Sanders said people needed education on the fact that they can take their trash to the city of Portales Convenience Center at no charge. He later said they were talking about passing another unenforceable law.
County resident James Kratzer asked about putting trash containers in the county so people wouldn’t have to come into town to dispose of their garbage. Sanders said the county had tried it, but trash ended up blowing around the containers.
Commercial rural trash services are also available.
As for the burn ban, the commission retained rules requiring people to call emergency dispatchers before starting a controlled burn. If they don’t call, they can be fined $100 to $250 for the first offense and $250 to $500 for subsequent violations.
Portales Fire Chief John Bridges said he was concerned about burning, but had no issue with the current rules.
“I’m nervous,” he said.
Even with a ban on controlled burns, Bridges said the county would have issues with other forms of ignition. He supported education on the subject.
Commissioner Gene Creighton said people are conscientious enough to call or check fire danger on a Web site before burning could handle a fire. However, there are always people who don’t use common sense, he said.
Floyd Assistant Fire Chief Allen Deen said the county needed a fine for people who broke the fire rules because some kept disregarding them.
“You’ve got to put teeth into this deal,” he said.
Commissioner Bill Cathey said lightning striking tumbleweeds would cause a worse fire than if people had burned them in a controlled manner.
The current ordinance requires 24-hour notice to officials before starting a controlled burn. However, Bridges said Portales firefighters actually preferred to be notified two hours or less before the burn because weather conditions could change in 24 hours.
In other business, the commission:
• granted permission for the city of Portales to place a memorial on the courthouse square to honor the writers of the salute to the New Mexico flag. Several members of the Ellen W. Jones chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in Portales created the salute, which was adopted in 1963.
• approved an updated investment policy.
• approved a grant agreement for $10,000 to educate sixth- through ninth-graders about the danger of teenage drinking.