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County asks for a state of emergency declaration
Governor Martinez will have to sign the declaration
BLOOMFIELD — San Juan County asked Gov. Susana Martinez to declare a state of emergency for the Harvest Gold subdivision.
"The county has wanted so much to be able to step up," said Kim Carpenter, San Juan County Executive Officer, during a meeting Tuesday evening.
While the county has wanted to assist the Harvest Gold subdivision, which has been on a boil water advisory for more than a year, the state's anti-donation clause prevented the county from providing much assistance.
A transfer agreement that will give the water system to a community-owned utility —Apple Orchard Mutual Domestic Water Consumers Association — was approved last week.
While the transfer agreement means the subdivision is now able to receive assistance from the state and the county, many people are upset with the agreement. A clause in the agreement would allow the water system's owner, AV Water Co., to back out if the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission enforced the more than $2 million of fines levied against the company and the company's owner, Mark Iuppenlatz.
Emotions ran high Tuesday night at the Apple Orchard board meeting in Bloomfield. At one point, the board president, Ammon Burton, threatened to shut down the meeting when angry residents began yelling at each other.
Burton said he did not like the transfer agreement because he feels like it let AV Water leave without facing penalties for providing the residents with dirty water. However, Burton said he was not elected to fight legal battles.
"You guys voted in a board to get water," Burton said.
During the meeting, the board announced it will contract with Rick Mitchell, a local water system operator, to operate the system until a pipeline is finished that will connect the subdivision with the city of Bloomfield's water system.
Mitchell has been working with water utilities since 1986. Mitchell currently operates two other San Juan County rural water systems.
"I know what you guys are going through," he told residents during the Tuesday meeting. "I've seen it before."
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.