On January 17, 2023, the Mountainair Town Council conducted a regular meeting addressing
- the purchase of Gustin’s Hardware Store;
- alcohol permits for La Galleria at the Shaffer Hotel;
- Animal Control Officer Jennifer Carter;
- the town’s procurement policy;
- the purchase of two vehicles from Paul Anaya;
- town employee compensation;
- the town’s bucket truck; and,
- the installation of wireless water meters in Mountainair.
The town council meeting began with a discussion of the ongoing dispute with Mountainair Police Officer Michael Shumate. (A detailed discussion of the current state of this dispute is forthcoming.) During a January 04, 2023 special meeting, the town council terminated Shumate’s employment.
The Purchase of Gustin’s Hardware Store
Max Gruner, currently a Regional Representative (Albuquerque) of the New Mexico Economic Development Department, spoke in support of Mountainair Ordinance 01–2023, which would benefit Javier Sanchez. (Gruner stated he will leave the state government to take a position with the City of Albuquerque.) The ordinance would approve an arrangement where the town would act as a fiscal agent for funds from the Economic Development Department. The town would then give the funds to Sanchez to support his purchase of the Estancia and Mountainair locations of Gustin’s Hardware. Mountainair would disburse these funds as Sanchez hit certain milestones as part of this purchase, beginning with the purchase of the Estancia location. The town council passed this ordinance.
Alcohol Permits for La Galería
In what Mayor Peter Nieto explained as an attempt to increase efficiency, the town council heard an application from Rebecca Anthony for four alcohol permits to be used at four art openings at La Galería at the Shaffer Hotel. Normally, the town council would hear each application individually. Based on Anthony’s statement in support of the application, the town council approved issuing the alcohol permits to La Galería.
Animal Control Officer Jennifer Carter
Mayor Nieto sought approval of the town council to move Animal Control Officer Jennifer Carter from probationary status to full-time regular employee status. Mayor Nieto cited Carter’s exemplary work performance as a basis for changing her employment status. The town council approved the change to Carter’s employment status.
Change to Mountainair’s Procurement Policy
In Resolution 2023–03, Mayor Nieto sought the town council’s approval of changes to Mountainair’s “Purchase and Voucher Approval Policy.” Specifically, Nieto sought approval for town employees to be able to pay from the municipal coffers for emergency vehicle repairs without prior approval from the town council, an increase of the discretionary purchase limits for department heads from $1,500 to $2,500, and a requirement that the town’s Certified Procurement Officer sign off on all disbursement requests prior to purchase or the rendering of services to the town. Nieto explained that the elimination of prior approval from the town council and the raising of the discretionary purchase limits would eliminate bottlenecks in urgent matters.
While not discussed during the meeting, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) states that having disbursement oversight by municipal officers like a Certified Procurement Officer eliminates those circumstances where a municipal employee can make a fraudulent disbursement of funds. (When an auditing authority reviews and approves an employee’s purchases, then there are fewer opportunities for fraud.) The town council approved Resolution 2023–03, implementing the requested changes.
The Misnamed Rescinding of Purchases from Paul Anaya
Mayor Nieto explained to the town council that, on July 20, 2021, the town council approved the purchase of two utility vehicles sold by Scott Self through Frank Anaya. (The Mountainair Town Council discussed this purchase as item 19 in the Minutes from the July 20, 2021 meeting of the town council.) Nieto said that the vehicles were associated with Paul Anaya only insofar that the vehicles were apparently stored on Paul Anaya’s property (and therefore the town council misnamed item 19 in its July 20, 2021 discussion). Because Self and Frank Anaya could not get title documents for the vehicles, the town could not register these vehicles. Therefore, Nieto moved for the council to revoke the authorization to purchase the two vehicles. The town council approved this revocation.
Town Employee Compensation
Stating it would assist in the retention of employees, Mayor Nieto proposed offering a $10,000 Colonial Life Insurance Policy to municipal employees. For all Mountainair employees, the accident and life insurance policies would cost $88.34 per month, according to a Colonial Life representative. The town council voted to approve this proposal.
Repair of Mountainair’s Bucket Truck
The Town Clerk, Dennis Fulfer, proposed to the town council that the town should pay to repair the hydraulic lift system of the town’s bucket truck. The council approved Fulfer’s proposal.
Installation of Wireless Water Meters in Mountainair
Mayor Nieto proposed replacing the currently used analog water meters in Mountainair with wireless digital water meters. Nieto made this proposal with the help of two representatives from the company he proposed to use for this project, New Mexico Meters LLC. Nieto’s plan for installing these wireless water monitors would connect the water monitoring system to the town’s current customer database, according to the representatives of New Mexico Meters. If Mountainair undertook this project, they stated, it would eliminate the need to check water meters manually, eliminate billing errors caused by misreading the water meter, and allow customers to learn of water leaks earlier than with the analog meters. Collecting data from the wireless meters would be considerably easier and quicker than collecting data from analog meters, according to Mayor Nieto.
Nieto explained the wireless water meter system would cost roughly $247,000, with the state contributing roughly $214,000 for the cost of the system. As a result, Nieto explained, the town would only pay $33,838 for the system. The proposed project would begin in March 2023, and is expected to take two months to complete. The town council voted to approve the installation of the wireless water meters.