Residents Unhappy With Mill Levy Tax

Española property owners started paying a new tax to the Upper Rio Grande Watershed District this month, however, exactly how Watershed officials plan to spend the money is unclear.

The Watershed District Board of Directors held off on passing a resolution, July 8, to approve their budget for Fiscal Year 2017, which started July 1. Two days earlier, their mill levy was expanded into the Española city limits and lowered from 2.5 mills, to one, by the East Rio Arriba Soil & Water Conservation District, which supervises the Watershed.

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City Councilors Question Water Restrictions

Customers of the city of Española’s utility services have been paying extra fees on their water bills for at least two years because of an emergency water restriction put in place under a previous administration, and public works officials are questioning whether the limits should still be in place.

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Española Police Union Loses Appeal

(SUNfoto by Austin Fisher) New Mexico Public Employee Labor Relations Board Chair Duff Westbrook (center) reads from his motion, Aug. 9, upholding the decision to dismiss the prohibited practices case brought against the city of Española and its police department.

The New Mexico Public Employee Labor Relations Board has upheld an earlier decision by its director to dismiss allegations that the city of Española and it’s police department tried to dismantle the local police officers union.

The three-member Board unanimously affirmed, Aug. 9, Executive Director Thomas Griego’s findings that the city did not violate labor laws when it fired American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 18 Local 923 Labor Union President Sammy Marquez in January and suspended Vice President Robert Vigil for two weeks in March.

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City Officials Want To Collect Old Debt

Unpaid utility bills have left the city of Española’s utility services short $1.5 million — about 15 percent of the city’s annual budget.

However, officials have a plan they hope will recover some of that money. A proposal reviewed by the city’s Finance Committee, Aug. 18, would hire The Advantage Group, LLC, an Albuquerque-based debt collection agency, to find customers who are delinquent on their utility bills and collect the money from them.

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Humane Society Building Going to the Dogs

City of Española officials aim to repair the local animal shelter’s roof after long-standing leaks were ignored.

“The shelter building that we manage on your behalf is suffering from decades of deferred maintenance,” Bridget Lindquist, executive director of the Española Valley Humane Society, told city councilors, Aug. 9, during a regular City Council meeting.

“Prolonged water damage is causing ceiling tiles to fall unexpectedly, particularly during inclement weather,” the repairs list states. “Mold has accumulated in the ceiling and may be a health hazard to employees and customers.”

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County Enters Annexation Fight

By Barron Jones, SUN Staff Writer

The Rio Arriba County Commission is asking a judge to order Santa Fe County Commissioners to adhere to a state law regarding an annexation petition filed in May, by a group of Española residents.

Working through Rio Arriba County Attorney Adán Trujillo, the County commission and the Citizens for Accessible and Representative Government filed a Writ of Mandamus, Aug. 1, requesting the court order the Santa Fe County Commission to issue a public notice letting residents know that a group has filed an annexation petition with the governing body.

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Grand Jury to Hear Española Voter Fraud Case

(SUNfoto by Austin Fisher) Dyon Herrera, 21, arrives for hearing at Rio Arriba Magistrate Court, July 20, in Española. The GMC Yukon pictured was being driven by Lenora Herrera, Dyon’s grandmother, which means he was defying an earlier court order by Rio Arriba Magistrate Judge Joseph Madrid to stay away from her and other parties named in his case.

The New Mexico attorney general’s office will press new criminal charges against Española Councilor Robert Seeds’s campaign assistant, after taking over a State Police investigation into alleged voter fraud.

Seeds won the March 8 race for the District 4 city council seat against incumbent Cory Lewis by just two votes, 238 to 236. Seeds received 94 votes by absentee ballot — two times more than all seven other candidates for City Council seats. Lewis received 10 absentee votes.

Lewis challenged the results in civil court, and now Seeds’s lawyer, Yvonne Quintana, will also defend 21-year-old Dyon Herrera in the voter fraud case, which Attorney General Hector Balderas intends to present to a grand jury.

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Española City Website Launch Delayed

A screenshot of a preview build of the new city of Española website as it appeared on Aug. 27, 2016.

The launch of a new city of Española website has been delayed until late September, more than nine months after the city signed the contract to build the site.

City Clerk Anna Squires expected the website to launch on Aug. 1, but the company building the site said it won’t be ready until Sept. 22. The city and Manhattan, Kan.-based company, CivicPlus, signed the contract in December 2015.

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