County ends housing contract with Conchas deputy

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By David Giuliani

Ed Wright, manager of the Conchas North Dock Marina, contends the San Miguel County government sees his community as an “unwanted stepchild.”

In Wright’s view, that’s why the county has asked its deputy sheriff for the Conchas Dam area to leave his county-owned mobile home without finding another place for him to stay, Wright said. Conchas is 75 miles southeast of Las Vegas.

On Sept. 12, the county’s housing director, Gilbert Almanza, issued a memo to Deputy Sheriff John Hartigan, informing him that the county was terminating its housing agreement on Oct. 31. The reason: The costs of repairs to the home are not cost-effective when compared to its value.

A couple of weeks ago, Almanza gave Hartigan until Nov. 30 to stay in the home. In the letter, Almanza emphasized that it was a one-time extension because of the deputy’s request for a “reasonable accommodation.”

If Hartigan has to move away, that would likely increase response times in Conchas.

Residents are circulating a petition asking the county to reverse its decision to evict the deputy. The petition states that while the county delivered the mobile home, Conchas residents repaired and installed it. Hartigan has lived there for five years.

“In determining the cost-effective comparison, Mr. Almanza has not looked at the potential cost to public safety,” the petition states.

Hartigan said there are no rentals available in the Conchas area, noting that the state parks knows this because it provides its employees with housing. He said the closest place for a rental would be Tucumcari, which is a 45-minute drive from Conchas.

County officials said the single-wide mobile home needs skirting and anchoring and other repairs to bring it up to code.

County Manager Les Montoya, Almanza’s supervisor, said the costs of the repairs are estimated to be $8,500. He said the trailer is worth only $3,000 to $5,000.

Montoya said a deputy is needed in Conchas.

Hartigan said members of the American Legion are offering to help repair the mobile home.

“This whole thing caught me off guard. I was on vacation when I got the letter. The sheriff was surprised,” said the deputy, who is on leave now because of an injury. “I can’t get over about how much community support there is.”

Commissioner Kenny Medina, who represents Conchas, said the county is willing to let residents fix the mobile home so that Hartigan can stay.

“We don’t have the funds to do it,” he said.

He also suggested the county transfer the mobile home to the Sheriff’s Department, with costs for repairs to come out of the sheriff’s budget.

“It would be up the sheriff to see if he could do that,” Medina said.

Sheriff Benjie Vigil didn’t return a call left on Monday.

Wright blamed politics for the problem.

“It’s a political football being kicked around out here,” he said. “There are way too many politics involved. The only thing he (Hartigan) wanted was the trailer to be skirted, which was supposed to have been done when it was put here, as is required by state law.”

Conchas has about 200 year-round residents, with many more during the summer, Wright said.

“We have a hard time keeping a deputy as it is. As a business operator out here, I’d like to know he’s around,” he said.