County manager urges caution lifting fire ban

By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer

Recent rainfall has Curry County residents questioning the need for the continuation of the countywide burn ban.

County Manager Dick Smith told the County Commission on Tuesday his office has received several phone calls from citizens asking if the ban has been lifted.

The burn ban, which encompasses all outdoor fires, including barbecue grills and fireworks, was imposed by commissioners in January because of drought conditions. Smith expressed concern over prematurely lifting the ban, citing liability issues if grassfires cause structures to be lost.

“We have only experienced spotty rain,” Smith said. “It has not been countywide.”

Commissioners opted to schedule a special meeting next week to discuss discontinuing the burn ban. The possibility of banning firework sales will also be discussed.

The area has seen just under an inch of rain so far this year, most of it in March, according to AccuWeather.com. March’s rainfall ended a dry spell that begin in late October.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting:

• A bid of $14,130 was accepted from Wesco Distribution of Lubbock to provide parking lot lights at the soon-to-be-built Special Events Center.
Groundbreaking for the 4,000-seat center is tentatively scheduled for later this month, pending Gov. Bill Richardson’s schedule, Smith said after the meeting.

The multi-purpose center will be built on the west side of the fairgrounds. Construction on the simple metal structure is estimated to last eight to 10 months. It will have a fixed seating capacity of 4,000 with additional floor seating of 2,800. The county manager said the center will have the capacity to be utilized for many different functions.

• Coni Jo Lyman, county voting administrator, reported mobile voting will be available for early and absentee voters for the June 6 primary election.

• Rhonda Bookout, treasurer, reported property owners have two new options when paying their taxes. Online and phone payments are now being accepted. A computer for public use is also available in the treasurer’s office.

• A contract with Wright’s Amusement Co. was approved. The company has provided rides and games at the annual fair for the last seven years.