Big tourist weekends like Christmas and New Year's hit Ruidoso village services hard, but the reward comes with the arrival of the next gross receipts tax check from the state, representing sales and service activities, says Village Manager Debi Lee.
"I can't believe we collected 400 tons of trash in less than one holiday week," she told councilors during their meeting Tuesday. "That is a big impact on the budget, but it also indicates a nice healthy gross receipts tax report." The next check from the state, representing tax collected two months earlier, is due mid-month, she said.
Solid Waste and General Services Director Jeff Kaplan reported his staff was inundated with trash from the massive influx of mostly foreign visitors to the community. Extremely icy conditions on Dec. 31 through Jan. 2 complicated the issue and staff was called in to remove by hand trash in dumpsters in many parts of the community because of the extreme conditions, he said.
"Estimates of increased volume for the week of Dec. 31, 2012, through Jan. 4, 2013, are set at a 30 percent increase over the same peak volumes in the past holiday seasons, Kaplan said. "This translates to a total of between 375 tons and 400 tons of trash for the week."
Coming off of two major holiday weeks, Ruidoso's water tanks showed drops in their levels and Grindstone Reservoir remained unchanged as no water was diverted into its storage. Even before New Year's, the village's 5 million gallon tanks sat at 48.
The village cannot divert from the Rio Ruidoso into Grindstone when the river is flowing below 4 cubic feet per second, explained Village Utilities Director Randy Camp. "That's our limitation during the wintertime," he said.
Stoddard asked how plans were progressing to create another diversion for the reservoir lower on the river.
"We're trying to fast track that now," Camp replied. "I hope to have it done by the snowmelt, because when that water is coming by, if there is excess flow, the pumps will allow us to take above 4 cfs."
"I sure hope so," Stoddard replied, then asked Lee to expedite the process.
Councilor Rafael Salas asked about the accuracy of the gauges on the river and whether in emergency conditions, the village could divert even with lower than 4 cfs flow.
Camp the 4 cfs is a measurement limit applied to the gauge at the Hollywood station.
"You're talking about (a gauge in) Upper Canyon," he told Salas. "We divert in Upper Canyon, because we are not bound by the limit in an emergency. The 4 cfs applies by the boundary (of the village with the city of Ruidoso Downs) and that is where we are limited.
"We have two gauges to look at it. The first is if there is enough water to divert. The river hasn't been 1.5 cfs sustained in Upper Canyon in three years. We can divert, but we are bound by water rights law at Hollywood to 4 cfs in winter and 6 cfs in summer."
Salas said one gauge needs to be fixed by U.S. Geological Survey staff, because its flow measurements aren't accurate. He received a call from a resident on Jan. 2, complaining that the river supposedly was running at 60 cfs and questioning why the village wasn't diverting.
"I was up there and could see, (the gauge) was way out of whack," Salas said.
"Right now, they are having (gauge) failures all over the state and everyone's water rights are regulated by (the gauges)," Camp said. "Hollywood works and that is the primary. Upper Canyon they see as secondary and they will get to it. The same with (the gauge) at Eagle Creek where they fixed it, it worked for three hours and went off again.
"They know about it and are trying to get out, but they have a bunch of gauges that froze and failed. Because they were here last, now we're on the bottom of the list."