Citizens’ committees given three-month extension

Sharna Johnson

Curry County Commissioners voted Thursday to seek an architectural study to remodel the postal building and gave jail and courthouse citizens’ committees a three-month extension.

The unanimous votes came during a special meeting held in the north annex of the Clovis-Carver Public Library.

Proposing both, Commissioner Bobby Sandoval said he believes the county needs to move forward in determining how the building at 417 Gidding Street will be used and in the meantime, citizens committees can continue studying issues faced by the jail and courthouse.

At an April 19 meeting, commissioners heard a presentation outlining how the county assessor, treasurer and clerks office could fit on the bottom level of the county owned building if it is renovated, leaving the courthouse free for only judicial and law enforcement offices.

“I think we’re at the point where we can move forward … we’re in limbo right now,” he said.

The first motion commissioners approved calls for the county to seek bids for an architectural firm to evaluate the post office building and develop plans for its use including cost assessments.

The second motion gives citizens committees an additional 90 days to study jail and courthouse issues. It also allows them the right to hold open meetings and to appoint their own chairperson.

“I personally think … they need more time,” Sandoval said.

Member Mary Hernandez asked for autonomy for the committees and told commissioners meetings need to be open or if closed, they should have the right to report the content of their meetings to the media.

Commissioners voiced support of the committees proceeding in the open.

“I’d like to have it as transparent as possible,” Commissioner Dan Stoddard said.

Commissioner Frank Blackburn said he believes the committees should be left to operate as they see fit. “Let’s leave them alone,” he said.

The courthouse and jail citizens committees were created in December after voters heavily defeated two bond issues aimed at raising $33 million to build a new courthouse and jail. Officials cited issues with space and security as reason the new facilities were needed.

Shortly after the committees were formed, more than half the members resigned because the commission ordered the meetings closed and the county manager serve as chairman.

Sandoval said he would “take the blame” for suggesting the meetings be closed because he had heard from committee members who felt inhibited by the idea of having the media in their meetings.

Some who resigned from the committees created an independent committee that presented recommendations to the commission at the same time the formal committees did April 19.

“I don’t think we need a committee to hear from you guys,” Commissioner Wendell Bostwick said. Bostwick said the commission will entertain any public input and that the committees are free to continue working on their own.

Despite his comments, Bostwick voted in support of the motion.

Chairman Caleb Chandler said he believes the committees can continue to work but they should do so while taking the efforts at the post office into account.

“I would hope that everybody would understand (a time extension for committees) doesn’t prohibit the county from moving forward,” he said.

County Finance Manager Mark Lansford said the timeline from selecting an architect to having workable plans will exceed the 90 days given to committees and that it would likely be mid-June before an architect could be hired.

In other business, commissioners:

• Heard from Sheriff Matt Murray, who said investigator Sandy Loomis was recognized as area law enforcement officer of the year by the Eagles Club.

Murray also introduced Deputy Erica Romero and K-9 deputy Ajax. Romero said she and Ajax were recently certified in narcotics and patrol, making him a dual-purpose dog that can do drug and apprehension work. “He’s an excellent, excellent dog; he’s one of the best dogs I’ve ever handled,” she said. Romero said she has been doing K-9 work in the community for 10 years, previously as a police officer for the city of Clovis.

• Watched a presentation on Granicus, a digital Internet product that creates streaming and archived video of public meetings and links them to digitized meeting records and relevant documents.

IT director Aaron Jones said the initial software costs are $6,500, with long-term costs of about $1,000 monthly. “It’s sorely needed, it will save on staff time,” he said.

“It’s a good system, it really is, (but) 12,000 dollars a year is a significant amount of money.”

• Heard an update from Assistant County Manager Connie Harrison on an income study conducted for a Community Development Block Grant to pay for a road from Cannon Air Force Base to Grady. Harrison said 29 surveys were sent to property owners and residents along the proposed route and only 20 were returned. The completed surveys showed a 30 percent low to moderate income level and does not meet the 50 percent needed to meet the grant application criteria.

• Heard a quarterly financial report from County Finance Manager Mark Lansford, who said revenues exceeded what was budgeted and disbursements were lower. “So far this year out revenues are coming in more than what we projected,” he said.

• Heard capital outlay requests from elected officials and department heads. County manager Lance Pyle said the requests total about $1.1 million.

Commissioners did not make any recommendations based on the requests. The preliminary budget is in the progress of being created and is expected to be completed by May 24.

Capital outlay requests included:

— A request from IT Director Aaron Jones for a new IT position at $25,000.

— A request from Murray for $114,000 for two new deputies, one of which would serve as a school resource officer and possibly be partially funded by a grant; $125,000 for five new vehicles; $33,500 to replace broken and outdated equipment, purchase recording equipment for phone lines and equipment for an interrogation room and money to send investigator Sandy Loomis to a 10-week long National Forensics Academy.

— A request from David Walker from the Juvenile Detention center for $24,200 to hire a detention officer and up to $130,000 for a backup generator and control board.

— A request from Facilities Operations Director Lee Delk for approximately $200,000 to replace a chiller at the post office, replacement of an air conditioning system for the courts and repair of roofs at the Curry County Health Office and two areas at the courthouse.

— A request from Treasurer Bernice Baker for $6,100 for scanning software to archive records digitally.

— A request from detention administrator Keith Norwood for an unspecified amount of money to replace broken or inadequate kitchen equipment, fix leaks in the roof and $25,000 to upgrade the jail’s heating and air conditioning unit.

— A request from Road Superintendent Steve Reed for up to $150,000 to replace two to three aged trucks and purchase an oil distribution truck.