County officials canvass vote totals with no changes

·9 min read

Jun. 19—Curry County's unofficial primary election returns were made official Tuesday as the Curry County Commission canvassed the vote totals with no changes.

County Clerk Annie Hogland said her office was challenged by the addition of same-day voter registration that continued to election day. There were 56 same-day registrations during early voting and 106 on election day.

Turnout for the June 7 primary, she said was 4,000 higher than for municipal officer elections in March.

In light of Otero County's refusal to accept election returns based on a mistrust of voting machines, Hogland detailed procedures for pre-election testing of the machines, which includes regular maintenance, tests to ensure proper functioning and an accuracy test, which includes feeding pre-counted ballots into the machines to ensure that the machine renders the same totals.

A printer at one precinct, she said, produced over-inked copies that the vote counting machine would not accept, but those ballots were counted.

Hogland said she has been County Clerk since 2017, and has "never had a doubt about those machines."

The commission voted unanimously on Tuesday to accept the vote counts as presented, making unofficial primary results official.

The commission on Tuesday also adopted new polling places and eliminated some existing ones. The commission decided to discontinue voting at the Roy Walker Recreation Center, moving voters to the La Casa Senior Center, and at the Youth Recreation Building in Clovis, redirecting voters to Clovis Community College, due to other activities going on during voting hours at those locations.

The commission also decided that North Plains Mall will serve as both an early voting center and a polling place on Election Day to avoid confusion.

Voters, however, may vote at any polling place, regardless of assigned precinct, according to documents presented to the commission.

The new polling place list includes:

— La Casa Senior Center, 1120 Cameo St. Clovis for precincts 6, 7, 8, 9, 20, 25, 29 and 31.

— Clovis Community College, 417 Schepps Blvd., Clovis for precincts 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 32 and 41.

— Farmers Electric Cooperative, 3701 N. Thornton St., Clovis for precincts 3, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15.

— North Plains Mall, 2809 N. Prince St., for precincts 17, 18, 19, 35, 37, 38, 39 and 40.

— Curry County P Department Barn, 1006, Curry Road 6, Clovis for precincts 5, 26, 28, 30 and 36

— Pleasant Hill Fire Department, State Route 77, Texico for Precinct 2.

— Grady Senior Citizens Center 104 West Main Street, Grady, precincts 1 and 34.

— 4, 16 Melrose City Hall 105 East Avenue B, Melrose, precincts 4 and 16.

— Texico Community Center 215 North Griffin, Texico, precinct 33.

Commissioners table cannabis ordinance

Commissioners, however, failed again on Tuesday to reach agreement on setting restrictions on adult-use cannabis businesses in rural Curry County, voting to table a modified ordinance to regulate cannabis businesses.

Division among the commissioners about how far cannabis businesses can be from churches, operating hours and whether variance procedures should be included in the law led to the vote to delay a decision, pending more discussion.

Commissioners Seth Martin and Tom Martin, no relation, presented opposing views on whether the county's cannabis law should continue to mandate 1,000 feet between cannabis businesses and churches, allowable operating hours and whether variances should be allowed.

Seth Martin advocated keeping the distances at 1,000 feet from cannabis business property lines to property lines of church properties. Tom Martin said the distance should be changed to 300 feet, the minimum distance in state law between cannabis businesses and schools and other protected buildings, not including churches.

In addition, Tom Martin said, the 300 feet should be measured from a business's cannabis access areas, including retail spaces and consumption areas, and the property line of a protected building.

Tom Martin also said the ordinance should leave the door open for variances. Seth Martin disclosed that he or members of his family might profit from cannabis businesses.

Seth Martin said variances should not be considered because if one is allowed, many others would demand them as well.

County Attorney Daniel Macke warned that state law prohibits restrictions in any jurisdiction that would result in no cannabis business being allowed in that area.

The 1,000 feet is designed to protect churches, but Commissioner Robert Sandoval asked, "What are we protecting them from?"

Seth Martin said the 1,000-foot distance "goes a long way" to protect churches and insisted the distance should be measured from property line to property line.

Seth Martin said cannabis businesses should be allowed to operate from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on most days. The ordinance allows cannabis sales for off-site use from noon to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to midnight on Sundays. Cannibis sales for on-site consumption would be allowed from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to midnight on Sundays.

At a public hearing on the modified ordinance, county resident Sam Jenkins was pleased to note the 1,000 foot distance for churches was in the draft of the ordinance presented on Tuesday.

"Change isn't always good," he said, noting court rulings that put an end to prayer in schools and to the nation's repeal of the gold standard to gauge the value of the money supply, both of which occurred in the 1960s.

Anthony Noonis, a cannabis business owner, asked that cannabis businesses be allowed to operate during "normal business hours" and not be restricted to hours specified in the ordinance.

Noonis noted his business will contribute "well over $100,000" to county tax revenues and said, "We want to be a partner with the county."

Financial analyst:No impact to GRT

Before commissioners voted for minor changes in the county's investment strategy, they heard an analysis of current economic conditions from Robert Burpo, a financial analyst.

Burpo said a combination of inflation, which will result in less in revenues, and higher prices, which would raise revenues, will mean that current inflation will have little or no impact on gross receipts tax revenue for the county.

Burpo said the nation's economy is likely to enter a recession this year, but that recessionary trends should start reversing in September or October. By year-end, he said, the S&P 500 should rise to 5,000. On Wednesday, the S&P was at 3,763.71.

With its relatively stable housing market, Burpo said, Curry County should be spared much of the impact of rising interest rates on home ownership.

Rising rates, however, are likely to curtail home ownership, especially among first-time buyers and buyers of second homes.

Interest rates on auto loans, however, are not rising as fast, Burpo said.

For the county, it means higher rates on borrowed money, but higher earnings on bond investments.

Curry County Events Center and Fairgrounds improvements.

The commission on Tuesday approved improvements at the Curry County Events Center and other Curry County Fairgrounds facilities, and approved a budget for the events center.

The commission tabled a proposal from convention center staff to purchase a tanker truck to water down dirt at the convention center, because commissioners want to determine whether a tank on a trailer towed through the facility would do the same job at less cost.

Staff members said watering with a tank would result in excesses of water collecting in the corners of some animal stalls, running the risk of animals being injured by slipping.

Purchasing the tanker truck, however, would mean that the events center would have to pay to train and license drivers qualified at Class B or Class A, which involves about a week of training in Roswell and passing written and driving demonstration tests.

The commission approved the purchase of new bleachers for the fairgrounds' 4H building at a cost of $35,000. The new aluminum bleachers would replace old bleachers that have become dangerous, according to fairgrounds staff members.

Civic Center Manager K.C. Messick told the commission he is working on how the events center can install ramps for disabled individuals to improve their access to event seating. Messick said design will be complicated by the steepness of the event center's aisle ways and a requirement that wheelchair ramps are restricted to dropping one foot for every 12 feet of length.

Commissioners presented ideas that included ramps that zig-zag up the aisles with rest areas on seating rows, and installing lifts for wheelchairs.

The commission gave unanimous approval Tuesday to the budget Messick presented for 2022-2023. The budget includes an estimated $675,000 in revenue from events.

Messick said the events center is expecting to host more events and increase attendance in the 2022-2023 fiscal year. The increase in revenue will mean the events center's subsidy from the county will decrease to about $50,000, Messick said.

Costs are expected to increase by $37,000 due to increases in wages paid to part-time and temporary workers. Messick said the cost increase will be offset by elimination of an operations director position that would report to the center's operations manager. Messick said the director position has not been filled this year, but the operations manager has fulfilled the duties of both positions.

Other matters

In other action Tuesday, the commission:

— Voted to continue membership in the Eastern Plains Council of Governments, paying dues of $8,145 for the year and reappointing Commissioner Robet Thornton to represent the county on EPCOG's board.

— On a 3-2 vote, approved a continuance on a fireworks ban through the summer due to continuing drought conditions. Commissioners Seth Martin and Robert Thornton voted against continuing the ban.

— Voted to commit funds received from legal action against opioid manufacturers to a proposed behavioral health center that would serve Curry, Roosevelt, Quay and De Baca counties. County Manager Lance Pyle said it is not known how much the county will receive from the opioid settlement.

— Approved a $351,329 project for improvements on Curry Road AI from Curry Road 14 to Curry Road 12, Curry Road 22 from State Route 209 to Curry Road H, and Curry Road 14 from State Route 108 to Curry Road F. The New Mexico Department of Transportation (DOT) will pay $263,942 and the county's share will be $87,981.

— Approved a $160,000 project for improvements on Curry Road 21 from Curry Road N to Curry Road K, and Curry Road 15 from State Route 268 to Curry Road AI. The DOT will pay $120,000 of the cost and the county will pay $40,000.

— Approved $20,847 to construct a concrete pad for a water storage tank at the Broadview Volunteer Fire Department.

— Declared June as Men's Health Month to focus on men's health issues that often do not get treated.

— Declared June 30 as Todd Estes Day, recognizing Estes, a Clovis Municipal Schools employee, for his advocacy of programs that promote nutrition and exercise among elementary school students. The programs, which reached 1,200 Clovis Municipal Schools students, are associated with the Healthy Kids Healthy Communities programs of the New Mexico Department of Health.