County presents priorities

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By David Giuliani

San Miguel County’s top priority for seeking state funds is an assessment of the county’s surface and groundwater resources.

The county presented its priorities to state legislators at a meeting this week.

All area lawmakers were invited, and state Reps. Richard Vigil, D-Ribera, and Thomas Garcia, D-Ocaté, showed up. Sens. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, and Phil Griego, D-San Jose, didn’t; both reportedly had prior engagements.

The county is requesting $400,000 for the hydrological assessment. County Manager Les Montoya said Mayor Tony Marquez called a meeting of the heads of local governmental entities, and all agreed that the assessment should be the priority.

In a letter to the legislators, County Commission Chairman David Salazar said the county has been successful in dealing with various issues that were “negatively impacting” services provided to residents.

“County buildings have been upgraded, new equipment has been purchased, and long-range planning has taken place, all because of the support you have provided to San Miguel County,” Salazar stated.

The other county priorities are utility and infrastructure improvements for the wood business park, which is designed to revive the area’s timber industry; solid waste baler equipment for the county’s new public works facility; a community-based reintegration center, which will aim to help jail inmates improve their lives; and various county road improvements.

Garcia said it would be a tough budget year, noting that the state is expecting a $500 million shortfall. As such, he said it was likely the local legislative delegation would focus on the top priority, the hydrologic assessment, when it lobbies for funding. “We will try to make the assessment a reality,” he said.

He said he would likely agree to sponsor all of the county’s requests, with the exception of those that are outside his district.

Garcia praised the county, which provided legislators with a full packet of information backing up its requests. He said some entities provide little more than a last-minute list.

Vigil said local lawmakers work as a team in their efforts to bring back dollars for the community. But he noted that if a constituent brings a request, he can’t refuse it.

“I will share it with the county manager,” he said.

A few years ago, a resident in western San Miguel County requested money for a road, without going through the county. Sen. Griego got the money for his friend, but it turned out to be a private road. (State money can’t go toward private purposes.)

The Legislature will convene Jan. 20 for its 60-day session.