Ortiz breaks tie in favor of beer sales

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Gurule-Giron, Romero vote no

By Martin Salazar

It wasn’t a vote that Mayor Alfonso Ortiz seemed happy with casting, but in the end, after councilors deadlocked in a 2-2 vote, Ortiz broke the tie in favor of moving forward with alcohol sales during Train Robbers games at Rodriguez Park.

Sitting in the audience during the vote was Ray Collins, who lost five families members in a DWI crash in 2006. Earlier in the meeting, during the public comment portion, Collins spoke against allowing beer sales at the park.

“This is a big slap in the face of our family,” Collins told the governing body. If you put that booze in front of them, people are going to drink, he added. Collins said a small city like Las Vegas shouldn’t be taking on the liability that will come with allowing beer at a city-owned facility.

But city officials countered with a letter from their insurance agent, PJ Wolff, which was read into the record.  In the letter, Wolff notes that a vendor’s liquor license will be used to sell the beer, which limits the city’s liability. Wolff recommended that the vendor be required to get an insurance policy that includes $1 million in general liability and liquor liability that specifically names the city as an additional insured party. He also recommended that the vendor be required to have an umbrella policy with at least an additional $1 million in coverage.

So long as the vendor is properly insured, and the alcohol is provided in a controlled environment, Wolff’s letter states, the city should be properly protected.

City Manager Timothy Dodge said the vendor, New Mexico Craft Brewing Company, will be carrying the recommended insurance. City Attorney Dave Romero agreed that the city would not face significant liability, adding that the entity that holds the liquor license would have primary liability.

The only action item on the agenda of Wednesday’s special City Council meeting was awarding a Request for Proposals to JC’s New York Pizza Department to provide food at Rodriguez Park and to New Mexico Craft Brewing Company to provide beer during Train Robbers games.

Councilors Joey Herrera and Vince Howell voted to approve the RFP.

Councilwoman Tonita Gurule-Giron said that while she supports the Pecos League wholeheartedly, she couldn’t support the beer sales. At one point, she noted that while the city might escape liability, that will be little consolation to the family of anyone killed as a result of a drunk driver.

 Joining her in voting no was Councilman David Romero, although Dodge and Ortiz put pressure on him not to vote due to a potential conflict of interest. The councilman’s son is apparently a member of the local Little League’s board of directors. While City Attorney Romero was initially concerned that there might be a conflict, he later said that he didn’t believe that to be the case. Dodge strongly disagreed and even directed the city attorney to re-read state laws on conflicts of interest.

Just prior to casting the tie-breaking vote in favor of awarding the RFP, Ortiz asked Councilman Romero if he was sure he wanted to cast a vote on the item.

“I’ll vote in favor of the motion,” the mayor said.

“You can’t stop life for one incident or another...,” Ortiz added. “We’re trying to do the best we can.”

Before the vote, Pecos League Commissioner Andrew Dunn said beer sales are essential for the professional baseball environment. He said he didn’t know of another professional sports team that plays in a venue that doesn’t allow beer sales.

Miguel Melendez, managing partner of Craft Brewing, which is a local company, pledged that he and his staff would go to great measures to ensure that people are not over served.

Speaking out against the decision to sell beer at the games was Wendy Armijo, coordinator of the local DWI prevention program.

Armijo said family-centered events, like baseball games, shouldn’t include booze sales, adding that the governing body’s action undermines her organization’s efforts to fight DWIs.

She added that selling beer at the baseball games isn’t worth it, noting that the cost to taxpayers and to families are huge when someone is arrested for driving drunk.