Sobering house could open early next year

Commission frees up additional funds for project

Hannah Grover
San Juan County Commission

AZTEC — San Juan County commissioners on Tuesday approved additional funds for a new sobering house they hope will open early next year.

Mike Stark, county operations officer, told commissioners at their meeting that the sobering house could open as early as January.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a draft intergovernmental agreement for two programs to combat alcoholism, the sobering house and a rehabilitation program called the Joint Intervention Program.

The sobering house will take the place of Four Winds Recovery Center, which operates the county's only detox center. Four Winds officials have announced they do not have the funds to keep running the detox center but have committed to keeping it open until the county's sobering house is operating.

The intergovernmental agreement is between the county, the city of Farmington, San Juan Regional Medical Center and Presbyterian Medical Services.

Commissioners on Tuesday also voted unanimously to free up more funds for building the sobering house, which will be located in a modular building next to Totah Behavioral Health Authority off of N.M. Highway 371.

The commission approved an additional $25,000 for the sobering house. The money will come from gross receipts taxes allocated to the hospital.

County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter said the county budgeted $12,000 for extra expenses associated with the project, but learned recently that the sobering house also needed methane monitoring because of its location on an old landfill. Carpenter said methane monitoring equipment costs about $12,000.

Carpenter said the county will also need additional money for water and gas meters, natural gas lines and items required to bring the building up to code and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Commissioners previously approved funding JIP and agreed to construct the sobering house.

After the sobering house opens, the county will contribute $333,000 toward its first-year operations. Stark said that is based on the estimate that 20 percent of patients will come from the county.

That amount is more than the county was paying for care provided by Four Winds Recovery Center. Stark said the county budgeted $152,000 this year for detox services.

In other business, commissioners approved hosting a public hearing on a proposed business registration ordinance. The public hearing will be on Jan. 5.

This will be the second public hearing the county has held about the ordinance. Five people attended the first hearing.

Based on public comments, staff have made several changes to the ordinance, including removing a registration fee, decreasing the penalty for not complying and including a 30-day warning letter prior to citation.

Commissioner Jack Fortner voted against the public hearing, saying he opposes the new ordinance.

"Sometimes less government is the best government," Fortner said.

Commissioner Margaret McDaniel said she voted in favor of the public hearing because "there are other people who are anticipating another chance to speak."

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