Council OKs flood warning stations
By Mike Cook
Las Cruces Bulletin
At its Monday, April 4 meeting, the Las Cruces City Council unanimously approved a resolution accepting a nearly $169,000 grant — with a city match of more than $56,000 — to install seven flood warning stations throughout the city.
The money will pay for rain gauges to be installed at the top of six-foot poles, which will be surrounded by chain-link security fences, said city Public Works Department Senior Civil Engineer Tony Trevino. The grant also will pay for easements for the land where the stations are located. The stations will provide a single location where weather data can be collected as part of the city’s storm-water management plan, Trevino said. He said the information collected will go directly to the Doña Ana County Office of Emergency Management, which will then alert local agencies in the event of potential flooding.
The flood-warning system will be the first of its kind in New Mexico, Trevino said.
City Manager Robert Garza said the city has had a two-mill levy in place since 1969 that has provided funding for storm-water management, including the installation of about 75 miles of drain pipes.
False alarm ordinance
Amend the city municipal code with changes to language and fees in the false alarm ordinance. City Fire Marshal Ted Sweetser said the city adopted a false-alarm ordinance in 2011, which has resulted in a reduction in false alarms from about 8,000 in 2011 to about 5,000 now. Sweetser said changes to the ordinance also will reduce the registration fee for a commercial alarm from $50 per year to $25, matching the fee for a residential alarm.
“The purpose of this ordinance was to reduce false alarms,” said Councilor Gil Sorg. “We’re doing that.” The annual registration fee, he said, is actually a tax. Sorg made a motion to eliminate the fee after a first-time fee had been paid, but the motion died for lack of a second.
Las Cruces Fire Chief Travis Brown said the fees collected are used to manage and run the program in place to deal with false alarms.
Sweetser said the Las Cruces Fire Department spends about 20 minutes responding to each false alarm it receives, while the Las Cruces Police Department, which receives a substantial majority of the false alarms, spends about 30 minutes on each one.
There are about 8,000 alarm systems in the city, Sweetser said, and about 3,500 permits have been issued. The city is working with private alarm companies to get a complete list of residences and businesses with alarm systems, he said.
Several councilors expressed their concern over the release of confidential information about the owners of alarm systems. Mayor Pro-Tem Greg Smith said those concerns should be addressed in future amendments to the city code.
The council also heard a report on the county clerk’s office’s Election Advisory Council, which was formed last summer to increase voter registration and participation in the county, said council Chair Dolores Connor.
The non-partisan council has more than 30 members, Connor said, adding that her vision is for the county to achieve the “highest voter registration and participation of all counties in the United States.” Connor is a former member of the city council and candidate for mayor and county clerk.
Appearing at the council meeting with Connor was council member Scott Krahling, chief deputy county clerk and candidate for that office in this year’s election.
Several Las Cruces military veterans made a presentation at the council work session requesting support for a veterans’ village that would include “tiny houses” which can be built for $23,000 to $33,000 each and made available to homeless veterans. The portable homes measure less than 200 square feet in size and could provide “sustainable housing” for veterans now living in the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope’s tent city and elsewhere, said U.S. Army veteran Lawrence Orvis, who is chaplain of American Legion Post 100 of Las Cruces.
Army veteran Dr. David Boje, a Regents professor at New Mexico State University, said the hope is to locate a veterans’ village on 75 to 100 acres of land owned by the city or NMSU and lease it to the nonprofit organization working to create the village.
At the meeting, Mayor Ken Miyagishima and council members also unanimously approved resolutions authorizing the city to:
• Accept a legislative appropriation of $195,000 to replace interior columns inside the historic Amador Hotel, 180 W. Amador Ave. City Public Works Department Facilities Administrator Eric Martin said the project should be complete by September.
Miyagishima thanked state Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D- Doña Ana, for securing capital outlay funds to support the project.
The city, the foundation and developer Max Bower are renovating the hotel, which was built in the 1870s and has been vacant since 2006. “My dream is to have that building operational within five years,” said Amador Hotel Foundation President Heather Pollard.
• Condemn, by mutual agreement with the owners, two well sites and adjacent right-of-way owned by Mesa Development Center, Inc. to allow their sale to the city. Mesa Development Center President Grover Pettes said he supported the action.
The city council’s next meeting will be a work session beginning at 1 p.m. on Monday, April 11 in council chambers at Las Cruces City Hall, 700 N. Main St. Items on the agenda include a police auditor update, proposed changes to the city charter and general obligation bond questions.
For more information, visit http://www.las-cruces. org/en/departments/ city-clerks-office/city-council- meetings.