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Village Voice: August 2022

Photo by Dylan R.N.Crabb: Questa’s Village Councilors from left to right: Louise Gallegos, Jason Gonzalez, Mayor John Ortega, Katrina Gonzales and Brett Jaramillo.

Grants funds, water rights and the Cabresto Road water line construction topped discussion items during Village of Questa Council regular meetings June 28 and July 12.

June 28, Lisa O’Brian, Taos Community Foundation (TCF) director, told council TCF — a non-profit organization based in Taos that raises funds and distributes grants to philanthropic causes throughout Taos County — was a potential source of funding for the Questa area.

“Even though our name says Taos Community Foundation, we have been fundraising in Questa and Taos County since we were founded,” said Foundation Director O’Brian.

During public comments on June 28, Christian Isely, advisor for Chevron’s Environment Management Company in Questa, expressed concern over water rights in the Questa area.

“We have over 1,400 acre-feet of water rights that are no longer valid according to the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer,” Isely said.

The State Engineer previously provided an explanation in the form of a letter to the Questa del Rio News editors (in response to a February front page article) explaining why some water rights transfers in northern Taos County have been denied. Complications regarding certain attempted water rights transfers by Chevron seem to originate from constitutional limitations around the definitions of beneficial use.

In the letter, John Romero, NMOSE’s Director of Water Resources, Allocation Program, noted, “The NMOSE’s Water Rights Division denied the two applications because the particular water rights Chevron is offering are not proven and valid water rights, because they were never put to beneficial use.… If water rights that have never been put to beneficial use are allowed to be transferred, the new uses … could jeopardize the exercise of existing water rights.… Chevron does have 1,263 acre feet of valid water rights that can be successfully transferred; however, the corporation is not offering those valid water rights to support local economic development.”

The June 28 meeting also saw the renewal of the Village’s contract with Robles, Rael, & Anaya, the Albuquerque-based law firm that the Village utilizes for legal services.

Council also learned the Cabresto Road water line had experienced a delay in construction due to a rise in the cost of materials for the project. The water line was also extended from 1,100 feet to 1,550 feet with a total cost of $279,000. The estimated time of completion is the end of July.

During the July 12 meeting, Finance Director Karen Shannon presented a financial report to the Council that the Village has successfully paid off two loans in preparation for a new loan in July for a new fire truck. There is also more money in the general fund than the Finance Director had expected.
“We’re looking pretty healthy financially,” added Mayor John Ortega.

Council also unanimously approved a policy change to allow utility customers within Questa to pay for services electronically via debit and credit cards.

Village Administrator Dominic Martinez presented his report to the Council expressing gratitude toward the Village staff for all their hard work in making the bureaucratic process more efficient at the Village offices.

The Mayor and Councilors also discussed a variety of ideas for the Questa area, including the question of more public restrooms, which would probably come in the form of portable toilets (more commonly referred to as port-o-potties). Village-sponsored celebrations and fiestas for residents were discussed as well as lawn and garden competitions to beautify the Questa area with friendly competition among private residents.

In a separate conversation at the Village Stop-n-Go the following day, Mayor Ortega spoke with the Questa News providing some more detail about the Village’s plans for starting a new police department. The Village is currently hiring for a police chief and between three and four officers.

Back in March, former Mayor Mark Gallegos told the Questa News that one of the most significant hurdles to building a new police department is offering competitive pay to prospective hires. Mayor Ortega wants to reassure everyone that that will not be an issue now.

“I’ve spoken with every municipality in the Enchanted Circle and I can tell you that we are offering competitive pay,” said Mayor Ortega.

In other news, two new digital road signs were delivered for the Village on July 13. The signs will notify residents of warnings, delays, and alerts from construction projects as well as warnings for fires, floods, power outages, and other disasters that prevent dangers to the public.