At the first monthly meeting of the new year, on January 9, 2024, Village of Questa staff from various departments gave status updates. The first to speak was Questa Public Library Director Sharon Nicholson, followed by Judge Michael Rael, Motor Vehicle Division Supervisor Sara Trujillo, Emergency Medical Service Director and Fire Chief Raynelle Cordova, and Anthony Martinez from the public works department, speaking on behalf of supervisor John Rael.
“We are endeavoring to move the library to an even higher standard of service for our community,” Sharon Nicholson began. “Our collection will grow with thoughtful and informed choices… We even have archives for the [Questa del Rio News] now… With the implementation of the new Questa Business Bridge that we’re doing in collaboration with the [Questa Economic Development Fund] we’re going to reach out to the community in a different way, providing business services and training to Questa and surrounding communities.”
Village Councilor Louise Gallegos asked her about surveillance cameras at the library. Nicholson explained that there was a recent incident behind the library that necessitated more property surveillance. “We thought it was vandalism, [concerning] two trees that we put in the back, and we thought it was time to [put] exterior cameras back there… The cameras went in today [January 9].”
Judge Michael Rael gave a brief update about the status of the municipal court. “After the pandemic, we started getting busy again,” said the Judge. “We have our officers… giving citations… The court itself is not really busy; we do get a few people in complaining about [traffic citations]…. We did get a new phone system after 23 years,” said the Judge gleefully as he turned toward the Village administrators with a smile. “And we’re required by the Supreme Court to have cameras in there.
We need one camera outside, one inside, and one in the courtroom, basically.” The Judge also wants Village employees to know that his personal phone number can be given out to inquiring community members. That number is (575) 779-1169 and is also available on the village website at https://questa-nm.com/municipal-court/.
“If anyone needs to come to the court for anything and no one’s around, give me a call, and I’ll come in,” said Judge Rael. “We’re here to serve the people as best we can.”
Next to speak was MVD Supervisor Sara Trujillo. “Our goal for 2024 in the MVD department is set by the State of New Mexico. We go by their rules, their regulations, their policies,” said Trujillo. “We are constantly seeing changes… We have many trainings we need to do yearly aside from all the new changes they make throughout the year. Our goal for our office is to continue to provide quality customer services. Three areas that we focus on are making improvements in customer service, document security, and confidentiality. Our mission is to always move forward and achieve excellence in all areas.”
Supervisor Trujillo continued with some physical needs for the office that would be of help: a larger office for improved organization and more efficient employee movement; the need for better parking, particularly for designated handicapped drivers; and the need for a security button for improved communication between the MVD and the Questa Police in cases of irate customers.
Next to speak was EMS Director and Fire Chief Raynelle Cordova, whose departments may be the most overworked. “This last year Fire and EMS combined have been really busy,” said Cordova. “[In 2023], we had 603 calls.” The first needs of these two departments is a permanent raise in pay, to be comparable to Red River and Taos. Despite raises given to EMT staff from within the department, Cordova says more efforts are needed to improve recruitment. She is also managing at least two 24-hour shifts, so improved recruitment would help significantly. Cordova would like to build up the Fire and EMS staff enough to cover all the shifts more efficiently and cover their territory more effectively, thereby lowering the need for outsized support from other fire departments.
Funding for more equipment was also stated as a need: battery chargers and compressors for improved road transportation; a new Lucas compression device for one of their ambulances, which prices out at $20k. A Lucas compression device is a specific device used in the administration of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). She said it is valuable in that it “frees a set of hands in the ambulance.” One of the ambulances is equipped with a Lucas and another would help with the administration of the other ambulance in transit. Along with new office supplies and updated computers for EMS, the fire department is in need of an updated building, with improved parking. Lastly is the need for a new wildland fire truck.
The Questa Fire Department holds meetings every second and fourth Wednesday of the month. EMS does not hold regular meetings but anyone is welcome to walk in and talk to them any time. The departments also do so-called “ride-alongs” for citizens.
Anthony Martinez spoke on behalf of Public Works Supervisor John Rael. He first explained how the department was able to purchase a vacuum truck last year, for cleaning out pipes. Alongside the vac truck the department also has two jet rodders, specifically for sewer pipes. “The staff has been really good in terms of knowing [our] problem area… so they address those periodically… making sure there’s no sewer backups,” said Martinez.
According to Martinez, a vac truck is helpful because it decreases the constant reliance on fire hydrants and allows workers to fix breaks more efficiently.
The public works department is investigating putting in a new well at the library which will help improve water flow between all the wells, particularly from the high school. Public works is also looking to improve its bank of replacement and spare parts to make repairs more efficient.
The Village Clerk and Chief Procurement Officer Valerie Vigil was next to speak. She explained that the village received three different grants from state capital outlay within the last couple of years, in the amounts of $175k, $75k, and $190k, so the Village was able to purchase a vac truck to assist public works with digs when there are water outages.
The Village will also extend their “Clean and Beautiful” grant for $6,900 to June 31, 2024. This includes $2k for recycling receptacles, $1k for clean-up activities, $3,500 for landscaping, and $400 for youth group empowerment.
A public health and safety grant was received in the amount of $9,894 for the Questa Health Center and police department, as well as a grant from the NM Department of Finance Authority, for $112,454, for a new playground. The design for the playground is awaiting approval. It will then take about three months to receive the parts for construction according to Ms. Vigil.
The skatepark project received $40k in capital outlay, which will be used for planning and design.
A recording of the full VoQ Council meeting is available at Questa del Rio News’ YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zf-c28KTkdo&t=3333s.
Mayor John Anthony Ortega is planning on a regular communication event this year, “Coffee With the Mayor,” tentatively scheduled for the first Monday of every month from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. for anyone who would like to speak with him about concerns and needs for our community. The Mayor can be contacted at the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.