AZTEC — San Juan County commission members and officials had the chance to ask questions of Public Regulation Commission Chairwoman Theresa Becenti-Aguilar at a special meeting on Thursday.
The meeting was a chance for officials to express their concerns to Becenti-Aguilar, who represents District 4, which includes San Juan County. She assured officials at the meeting that, as chairperson, she is dedicated to reforming the PRC, which has had numerous scandals over the years, and communicating with her constituents.
"They've needed to make some changes, she's indicated they've made changes, which bodes well from my standpoint that reform is needed and that is underway," said County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter.
Becenti-Aguilar, who is running for a second term as PRC commissioner assured the officials that greater openness and information sharing would be a new trend between the county and the regulatory agency.
"The details of (the PRC's work are) not always clear, at the end of the day. Here, at the local level, we know they're in the background on a lot of things, and it was nice of her to bring it forward, so it's nice to have her here," said County Assessor Clyde Ward. "We're seeing the beginnings of good transparency starting."
Ward, Carpenter, County Commissioner Margaret McDaniel and Chief Operations Officer Mike Stark all said they were encouraged by Becenti-Aguilar's visit as the county seeks answers related to a handful of issues. In focus during the meeting were questions about intercounty pipeline audits and pipeline safety, water pricing and quality, tariff changes on ambulances and possible taxes on pre-paid cell phones.
"It's interesting when you look at what the PRC regulates, it's a lot, it's pretty broad," Stark said.
Regarding the pipelines that cross county lines, Ward asked Becenti-Aguilar to clarify the audit process and whether the county should be receiving any of the taxes paid on those pipelines and other large assets that are not valued by the county assessor. Companies that own those assets self-report to the state.
"Pipelines (are) valued by the state assessment bureau, the property tax division in Santa Fe," Ward said.
Ward said he would like the PRC to address that issue at an 8 a.m. meeting scheduled for May 16 that is sponsored by the New Mexico Gas Company. The meeting will be held at the San Juan Center for Independence, 1204 San Juan Blvd., in Farmington.
"It's up to us to take care of us," Ward said. "At the end of the day we need to be more active in that role and as a help factor to the state assessment bureau. The more information we can glean from (Becenti-Aguilar), the better."
Of any revenue that might be owed to the county, he said, "Those are tax dollars we put to use in the community. It goes back to being fair."