A Successor, Not a Replacement

A Successor, Not a Replacement

Mountainair Town Council Selects New Town Clerk and Addresses Public Concerns Regarding Cannabis Processing Operation

The air was heavy with humidity at the start of the June 6, 2024, meeting of the Mountainair Town Council. The mugginess was only exacerbated by the roughly fifty people in the town council building. Most of the audience (38 out of the approximately 50 people in the building) was present for a discussion regarding a cannabis operation that has begun in Mountainair. Another seven were present to discuss EMS and fire-related matters. The final group could be considered "the regulars," including Juanita Carrillo, Municipal Judge Michelle Archuleta, Jesse Torres, and the municipal department heads.

EMS Chief Josh Lewis presenting certificates of appreciation - Todd Brogowski/Mountainair Dispatch

EMS Chief Josh Lewis presented certificates of appreciation to members of the EMS staff, town administrative staff (including Dennis Fulfer, Esperanza Luna, and Ramona Vickery), and Fire Chief Josh Archuleta. Lewis explained to members of the town council that it had been a difficult month, as a member of the fire department had passed away, and the EMS department had responded to the call. Lewis reported that the EMS department had a 70.45% response rate for calls despite only having seven members to serve the community. Lewis said that the EMS team had spent 67.9 hours responding to calls in May 2024 and 193.3 hours responding to calls over the year to date.

Graphic for Town Clerk Dennis Fulfer’s Going Away Party - Town of Mountainair

Mayor Nieto updated the town council on administrative matters, including a farewell party for Town Clerk Dennis Fulfer on June 19, 2024, from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM at the Dr. Saul Community Center. Nieto stressed that the public was welcome to attend the event. Nieto stated that Fulfer's last day working for the town before his move to Kentucky would be June 21, 2024.

Following the discussion of Fulfer's going away party, the town council went into executive session to discuss hiring a new town clerk. In the second half of the meeting, after the executive session, the town council unanimously voted to approve hiring former Torrance County Sheriff's Office administrator and Torrance County Local Emergency Planning Committee executive board member Cheryl Allen.

Lenora Lovato-Romero - Todd Brogowski/Mountainair Dispatch

The second half of the town council meeting included a public forum regarding the establishment of two cannabis-related enterprises in Mountainair: Mountainair Gardens, LLC, and Peak Laboratories, LLC. Lenora Lovato-Romero spoke before the town council, arguing that she believed, "We have enough smoke shops and marijuana shops all around us. And you guys probably know that you can go to Belen, Los Lunas, Ruidoso, Estancia, Moriarty, and they're all around us. I personally wish that we could just stand up as a community and say we don't want this in our community."

Lovato-Romero claimed that a cannabis greenhouse could not be placed within 300 feet of a business under New Mexico Law. Mayor Nieto responded that the law stated that licensed cannabis retailers and consumption areas were allowed within 300 feet of businesses, but they could not be within 300 feet from a school or daycare. Lovato-Romero also said that the state marijuana laws were preempted by an ordinance signed into law in November 2005. Nieto said in response that a municipal ordinance would be superseded by a state or federal law.

Lovato-Romero asked if a law could be passed that retroactively barred the cannabis business from operating in Mountainair. Nieto explained that laws could not be used to target a single business and could not be applied retroactively. Nieto said that the town was speaking with its attorneys about the town's strategy for handling the cannabis businesses that had started in town. "So, I don't disagree with you that I don't want, like, I don't want our town filled with marijuana plants," Nieto said to Lovato-Romero, "I mean, I definitely don't want that. But at the same time, we live in America where people can do as they wish, as long as they follow the law."

Mayor Pro Tem Gayle Jones said to Lovato-Romero, "I think you're preaching to the choir. I think we all agree that we don't want Mountainair full of marijuana dispensaries and production operations, whatever. However the only thing that we can do as a local jurisdiction is adopt rules regarding the time, place, and manner of the business. As long as [those rules don't] conflict with the cannabis regulation. I, you know, I am not a proponent of cannabis. However, the governor and the legislators have crammed it down our throats. We had no choice in this."

Following the discussion of the cannabis businesses, the town council addressed a request by EMS Chief Lewis to merge the Fire Department and the EMS Department into a single legal entity as part of a revision to the organizations' bylaws and constitution. The town council unanimously approved this measure.

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