Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jail To See Boost In Staffing

By Mike Sievers
SOCORRO – The county jail should have a full staff in the next few weeks, as the detention center is hiring two new supervisors and one new officer, in addition to replacing two officers who resigned recently.
Socorro County Manager Delilah Walsh said the building is inadequate, and she and Detention Center Director Evangel Maldonado will develop a 10-year plan that includes building a new facility.
In the meantime, Maldonado and Walsh are working on the “little things,” like equipment and maintenance. The county will go out for bid in August for training to certify detention center officers, something that hasn’t been done before in Socorro County.
Walsh gave a report about the jail to the Socorro County Board of Commissioners in a regular meeting Tuesday. She said Manuel Romero of the New Mexico Association of Counties visited the jail for an assessment last Thursday, July 23, and will have a report ready in about a month and a half.
“Overall, the center is vulnerable and not a good facility for the county,” Walsh wrote in a typed report to the commission. “In the short term, we need to address our staffing issue and begin a plan to implement a better administrative structure … In the long term, we have to replace the physical plant, which is not sufficient and is a terrible design.”
Walsh said the long-term goal should be to develop a plan for a judicial and law-enforcement complex that would house the courts, DWI offices, district attorney offices, sheriff’s office and a detention center.
Maldonado reported to the commission that the detention center currently has 47 inmates, with five overflow inmates in Cibola County. The state does not reimburse the county for overflow inmates, Walsh said. She said a good percentage of the inmates are there because of probation violations; Maldonado said the jail has been filling up fast because of the strict probation and parole office in Socorro County.
Walsh plans to ask the commission at its next meeting, 6 p.m. Aug. 11, to move $500,000 into a technology fund that would include upgrading the camera and security systems at the detention center, as well as purchasing intake and processing software for the jail.
The technology fund also would pay to replace the county assessor’s software system, designing a Web site for the county and upgrading the county’s telephone system, which currently costs the county $68,000 per year, Walsh said.
In other business:
• The county adopted a resolution requesting that Valencia County ensure that trucks en route to the proposed Roadrunner Metals Recycling plant near the Rio Communities would take Interstate 25 to Exit 175.
Commissioner Rumaldo Griego had expressed concern at the last meeting that trucks would use Highway 304 through Veguita, resulting in more traffic and damage to the roads. The issue will be decided by the Valencia County Planning and Zoning Commission sometime in August. Griego plans to attend along with Walsh to make the plea again in person.
• The commissioners adopted a resolution supporting an alternate route of the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project. The alternate route would have the 500-kilovolt transmission lines routed through the Arrey-Derry area near Hatch and along the White Sands Missile Range, instead of across the Rio Grande near San Antonio, N.M.
• The commissioners approved the final fiscal year 2009-10 budget with lots of small changes from the state Department of Finance and Administration, according to county Finance Director Roberta Smith. Walsh said the county appears to be in a good cash position with $5.9 million, much of that coming from the federal Payment In Lieu of Taxes program, but much of that money is already committed.
• The commissioners appointed Paul Arteche, Ariel Dickens, Bob Iker, Leo Mendoza and Jim McCord to the Illegal Dumping Task Force. Walsh said the task force is an experimental board, but the county needs that infrastructure in place to make improvements. She said there is no reporting system for illegal dumping, and perhaps that is something this task force could develop.

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