AG's office urges county to be more involved with PRC

Hannah Grover
The Daily Times

AZTEC — While local residents and officials have sent letters and petitions to the Public Regulation Commission supporting a Public Service Company of New Mexico plan intended to keep the San Juan Generating Station in operation, representatives from the state attorney general's office say none of that will be reviewed as evidence in the case.

That's because the letters and petitions are considered public comment, Cholla Khoury, the assistant attorney general, told San Juan County commissioners during a meeting Tuesday,

"We've heard your statements, but there's no evidence in the record," she said as she urged the county to become more involved in the PRC's process.

That would require the county to send a representative to Santa Fe to meet with the PRC and enter evidence into the record. That evidence would detail the job and revenue losses expected if PNM's plan to restructure the plant — a compromise plan created to comply with environmental regulations that involves closing two units — is rejected, which could force the plant to close.

County Attorney Doug Echols said that person would likely be a lawyer who has experience working with the PRC.

County CEO Kim Carpenter said he and Ray Hagerman, CEO of Four Corners Economic Development, have spoken about becoming more involved in the PRC process, including submitting evidence into the record. He said they have discussed whether the county should submit the evidence or whether Four Corners Economic Development should submit evidence or both.

The county is expected to decide what course to take in the next couple of weeks.

In addition to hearing from representatives from the attorney general's office, the county commission approved its final fiscal year 2016 budget.

The final budget includes more than $30 million in capital carry overs, which is money that was set aside for last year's projects.

Marcella Bashear, the county's chief financial officer, said the carry overs are mainly from county-issued bonds.

A resolution approved Tuesday and included in the budget is aimed at attracting more qualified sheriff's deputies and firefighters by increasing the amount the county pays into retirement plans.

Undersheriff Shane Ferrari said it is becoming harder and harder to find deputies.

"We've created what I call a gypsy society of cops," he said, explaining that officers move from place to place searching for better benefits.

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