County commissioners are faced with passing a revised Solid Waste Collection and Disposal Ordinance for Valencia County before Sept. 30, when the previous ordinance expires. However, commissioners decided Tuesday to table a proposed version of the ordinance for further consideration.
Ever since the county was forced to close its landfill south of Belen due to 21 violations outlined in August, 2001, by the state Environment Department, trash has been hauled to the Conejo Transfer Station, where it is then carted away by independent haulers to a Rio Rancho landfill. Until the county has its own landfill site, revising the disposal ordinance brings up special considerations.
“This binds all haulers to go to a county-owned facility,” Commissioner Alicia Aguilar said of the ordinance. “I think we need discussion on this ordinance before we pass it.”
Private companies are currently picking up trash in the county. Dirt roads off the Manzano Expressway and elsewhere can be found littered with discarded couches, chairs, washing machines, dryers and other items residents fail to dispose of properly.
“We’ve been under the gun for a long time to clean up this county,” Commissioner Frank Pando said at Tuesday’s meeting. “But until we have a place to put the trash, we can pass all the laws we want.”
When contacted Wednesday, County Manager James Fernández explained that the county does have plans to acquire a landfill owned by Waste Management Inc. that is located about 20 miles west of the Los Lunas exit off of NM 6. Waste Management also runs the Conejo Transfer Station.
“Right now, the county is in negotiations for a landfill called Tri-Sect,” Fernández said.
Representatives from Superior Waste Systems and Waste Management Inc. both spoke at Tuesday’s meeting.
“I would appreciate it if we were allowed to have some input,” said Mel Sisson of Superior Waste Systems. “Let us know what’s going on and give us an opportunity to give our comments.”
“The less volume coming in, the more expensive per ton,” said Marlene Feuer, a representative of Waste Management Company.
“We’ve been crunching numbers and trying to verify the volume,” Feuer said.
For now, County Attorney Tom Garde is faced with the task of rewriting some wording in the Solid Waste Collection and Disposal Ordinance.
In another matter, commissioners disagreed over a resolution that would provide payment for civil and criminal defense expenses for county elected officers in “certain circumstances.” Disagreement came over a paragraph that reads in part, “on claims up to $40,000 shall be final.” The listing of $40,000 would set a limit on the total amount of legal fees for which an elected official could be reimbursed.
In his motion to approve the resolution, Pando asked that the paragraph limiting claims to $40,000 be omitted from the document.
“This resolution was made to have some control over the legal fees,” Garde said.
Commissioners Al Padilla and Pando both voted in favor of the resolution, while Commissioners Helen Baca and Gary Daves both voted against it. Commissioner Aguilar recused herself from voting, as the commission is still deciding whether to reimburse her for legal fees she incurred regarding a petition against the Valencia County Animal Shelter. With the vote ending in a 2-2 tie, the resolution died.
“I fully support Commissioner Aguilar getting reimbursed,” Pando said in the discussion before voting on the resolution. “You know we don’t make enough money up here to take care of a dog.” Commissioner salaries range from $13,511 to $13,811 annually.
The resolution did not directly involve the issue of payment of Aguilar’s legal fees, and that matter has yet to be decided.
In other county business, the commission:
- Tabled a request for county maintenance on Sul Tree Road.
- Decided it has no authority on a request to vacate an easement on Sunflower Lane in Peralta.
- Approved the county clerk and staff’s required attendance at Fall Election School in Santa Fe.
- Authorized attendance for supervisor and enforcement officers at the annual New Mexico League of Zoning Officials in Rio Rancho.
- Tabled a request to install street lights on Golf Course Road.
- OK’d an agreement with the Village of Bosque Farms on impoundment of animals.