Luna considering expanding its service area

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By David Giuliani

The Luna Community College Board of Trustees last week divided over the school’s strategy for expanding to towns such as Pecos and Raton.

Luna staff has been making overtures to Raton and Pecos in an attempt to provide more services in those communities, but some board members oppose such efforts before voters there decide to join Luna’s taxing district.

The discussion came during the staff’s presentation of an idea to coordinate the school’s strategic and master plans. Pecos was listed as a possibility for inclusion in the master plan; Raton wasn’t.

“We’re trying to tie it all together, so projects aren’t popping up all over the place,” said Mary Ward, a Luna vice president.

But Trustee Levi Alcon said it wasn’t fair to taxpayers in Luna’s district to help areas that aren’t contributing. He asked the college to have its attorney look into the legalities of Luna investing in areas that aren’t a part of its taxing district.

He said he was willing to expand to the other areas if they join the taxing district.

“Our people have been paying the levies,” he said.

Trustee Ambrose Castellano said he liked the overtures.

“If we show them the commitment, they will vote for the levy,” he said.

Trustee Don Shaw said he had no problem with expanding programs to other areas, “but I do have a problem with setting up facilities in these places before they are part of the taxing district.”

However, Trustee Jerry Maestas said Raton and Pecos want to join Luna’s taxing district — a point Shaw disputed.

“Raton has no interest in being a taxing district,” Shaw said. “The election can be done quickly, by March.”

Luna’s interim president, Sigfredo Maestas, said the tax levy pays for only a small part of Luna’s operations — to which Shaw said his point still stands.

Maestas said he was planning to hire a temporary, part-time coordinator for Pecos.

He noted that 50 high school students from Pecos are already going to Luna to take classes.

He said Luna staff has met with Pecos school officials and they appear ready to join Luna’s taxing district, adding that state legislators have indicated that they would help Luna set up a facility in the western San Miguel County community.

“With very little urging, the school board (in Pecos) will sponsor a (tax) election for you,” Maestas said.

Shaw didn’t like the idea of getting a coordinator before Pecos passes a tax.

“It looks like we’re back-dooring a satellite campus. It’s the cart before the horse,” he said.

He said that by hiring a coordinator, Luna is giving Pecos no incentive to pass a tax.

“How do you know that?” board Chairman Ambrose Castellano asked.

Then he banged his gavel and declared, “No more discussion.”