County voices support of legislative priorities

Hannah Grover

AZTEC — San Juan County commissioners unanimously approved a resolution today voicing support for the New Mexico Association of Counties’ four 2017 legislative priorities.

San Juan County Commission

The 60-day 2017 legislative session will begin in January in Santa Fe.

Among the four priorities is a proposal to amend the state's forfeiture law. A bill passed in 2015 impacted the ability of law enforcement agencies to store and manage abandoned, lost, stolen or seized property by changing requirements for where the property is to be stored and sold.

Previously, local law enforcement agencies stored the items locally, then sold the property as surplus or donated the items to community organizations. The changes in the law required agencies to transport the property to the state Treasurer's Office in Santa Fe. The items then were supposed to be sold at auction, and the proceeds would be placed in the state's general fund.

But representatives of local law enforcement agencies say the law has not worked for them. While the new law aimed to establish uniform procedures, officials say it led to a loss of money from sales of the surplus and a buildup of surplus property.

San Juan County Undersheriff Shane Ferrari told the County Commission that surplus items are piling up in evidence yards, and the law enforcement agencies have no way of getting rid of the surplus because there is nowhere in Santa Fe to store the items.

“It has created one heck of a mess for us to deal with,” Ferrari said.

In January, the Farmington Police Department and the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office loaded a moving truck full of the property and took it to Santa Fe.

“We went down. We met with the (state) treasurer,” Ferrari said. “We said, 'Where do you want your stuff?' They said, 'We have no idea.'”

State officials told the officers they did not have a place to put the items, so they were transported back to San Juan County. Ferrari said the items are still here.

Another priority on the list is amending the capital outlay request process for nongovernment groups. County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter said the New Mexico Association of Counties supports changes that would allow county commissions to accept, approve or review requests for capital outlay funding from nongovernmental entities.

“Counties can end up being a fiscal agent for something that has been appropriated,” Carpenter said.

The other two priorities are a proposed amendment to the Whistleblower Protection Act and a proposal to make pre-paid cell phone providers pay into a fund that supports 911 services in the state.

In other business, the County Commission unanimously approved dissolving the Shiprock, Ojo Amarillo and Newcomb fire stations. Starting at 5 p.m. today, the Navajo Nation began managing the three fire stations.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.