County will again discuss business ordinance

Hannah Grover
Bill Moss, with Bill Moss Excavation, stands on Friday outside his home and business off U.S. Highway 550 north of Aztec. Moss opposes an ordinance the San Juan County Commission approved that requires businesses to register with the county, explaining, "It increases government power over our private lives a lot."

FARMINGTON — After a series of negative comments from the public, the San Juan County Commission will once again discuss an ordinance that requires businesses to register with the county.

At a meeting last month, commissioners approved Ordinance No. 95 by a 3-2 vote. The vote came after the ordinance had been tabled in October due to negative response from some  members of the public. County officials altered the ordinance by removing the registration fee and reducing the fines. The county also held several public input meetings to solicit public input and educate people about the measure.

Despite the multiple meetings and changes in the ordinance, a group of residents attended the Feb. 2 commission meeting to request the ordinance be reconsidered and possibly repealed.

The commission will discuss the ordinance at its meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the County Administration Building, 100 S. Oliver Drive in Aztec.

"As chairman, I try to be as receptive as I can to the public," said Scott Eckstein, commission chairman, in a phone interview on Friday.

Supporters of the ordinance say it will be helpful because it could protect firefighters by providing them information about potential explosives in a business. Opponents say the ordinance is too much government oversight.

"Registering the business is really not an issue," said Darci Moss, who opposes the ordinance.

She said the ordinance does not clearly define what qualifies as hazardous materials and what parts of a property can be inspected.

The ordinance states business owners who are required to register with the state must also register with the county. For some businesses, that will require the San Juan County Fire Department to inspect the business' buildings and draw up action plans in case of possible emergencies.

From left, Bill and Darci Moss, who own Bill Moss Excavation, walk Friday on their property north of Aztec. The couple opposes an ordinance the San Juan County Commission approved that requires businesses to register with the county. Donna Moss said the ordinance is "invasive, vague and open-ended."

The Moss family operates Bill Moss Excavation, which services oil field roads. The business, which employs 11 people, is based out of the family's farm north of Aztec.

"It's an invasion of my home when they come in and start looking for stuff," Moss said.

She said she does not know if firefighters would search only the area where the company's equipment is stored or if they would also search her office and the entire property, including the family's home.

Moss also said she does not think the registration will provide protection for first responders because the types of materials and their location at a business can change quickly.

"It's never going to be the same from one day to the next," she said.

Moss said she plans to attend Tuesday's meeting and hopes to address the commission.

During the meeting, Eckstein said he will ask the other commissioners if they have changed their opinions since the January vote. If they have, he said, commissioners could possibly vote on the issue again in the future.

"I don't know how long we can continue rehashing this issue," he said.

If commissioners have not changed their minds, Eckstein said he will ask opponents to give the ordinance a chance for a year and talk to their commissioners if they run into problems.

"If no one's changed their opinion on the way they voted, there's no reason for me to place it on a future agenda," he said.

Also on Tuesday, the commission will discuss repealing two health care gross receipts taxes.The commission approved the taxes in 2014 to offset a $6 million deficit in a fund that pays for uninsured health care. Commissioner Jack Fortner led discussions in January about possibly repealing the taxes early.

Hannah Grover covers  Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

From left, Darci and Bill Moss, owners of Bill Moss Excavation, stand for a photo on Friday at their business north of Aztec.