Town Council Addresses Surplus Equipment, Natural Gas Training, and the Animal Control Vehicle

Surplus Equipment from NMDOT

With much of the town focused on the home varsity boys’ basketball game against Corona, the February 21, 2023 Town Council meeting was a brief affair. After the standard review of minutes, the agenda, and the town voucher, the council addressed Resolution 2023-04. This resolution would allow the town to seek $25,000 in surplus equipment from the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT). The council passed this resolution.

Natural Gas Training

Next, the town council addressed whether to hire Dee Tech Services, LLC, for training and evaluation necessary for members of the Public Works Department to get Natural Gas Operator qualification. In August 1999, the US Department of Transportation (USDOT), Research and Special Programs Administration, Office of Pipeline Safety requires those involved in natural gas pipelines to train for qualification to conduct operations with and maintenance on natural gas pipelines safely. See 64 FR 46853 (Aug. 27, 1999) (PDF) for the admittedly boring final administrative rule governing qualifications for pipeline workers, which became part of the administrative rules also found at 49 CFR 192. (Without getting too “Schoolhouse Rock,” federal administrative agencies initially publish their rules in the Federal Register before organizing them in the Code of Federal Regulations.)

"The gas caught fire" in From the Earth to the Moon (1874 ed.) by Jules Verne, courtesy The Smithsonian Institute Libraries Digital Collection.

Town Clerk Dennis Fulfer suggested the town contract with Dee Tech to do the training that the town’s natural gas workers will need every three years. Dee Tech's CEO, Ronnie Reynolds, helped with training certifications, according to Fulfer. Fulfer said that Mark Lewis, a town employee, used to be a master evaluator able to provide the certifications. However, Lewis’ master evaluator certification expired. Fulfer said that Reynolds offered more than just training, but did not elaborate. Reynolds proposed providing training services at a rate of $90.00/hour with a cost cap of $50,000, according to Fulfer. Councilor Torres inquired about how much it would cost to have Lewis’ master evaluator status restored. Fulfer explained he did not know the cost, but knew it would involve a weeklong training program in Decatur, Texas, just northwest of Dallas. Fulfer said he believed it would take approximately one hour for town employees to get their qualification with Dee Tech here in New Mexico, which they would then need to renew every three years. Mayor Nieto, appearing via telephone, inquired as to why the costs for the program were so high. Fulfer explained that the $50,000 price cap was offered two years ago when Dee Tech was offering to manage the entire natural gas system for Mountainair, not just the qualification program for employees.

Councilor Lopez expressed at length concern regarding the costs,

“I mean I get what you’re saying he wrote it up a while back but I wonder why there is such - I mean there’s such a contrast - in what he may have to charge, maybe around $1,000 - $3,500 but he wants $90/hour. It says right here the cost of this proposal is $90/hour plus expenses, mileage, IRS rate... services provided will not exceed $50,000 for a duration of the year [but that was a few years back. Now it’s 2023]. That just seems like a lot of money. We haven’t even talked to anybody about it. We haven’t talked to Mark. ... It just seems like a, it’s too vague. We haven’t even discussed it yet to go straight to a vote to put this in. It just seems like a lot of - a potential waste of money.”

Fulfer said he could reach out to Reynolds regarding Councilor Lopez’s concerns. Lopez responded he wanted to table the matter until after the town talked with Reynolds. Fulfer said that, because the town was not in a time crunch, there was time to negotiate with Reynolds. Councilor Torres said he believed it was important to do so because of the potential for a cost of $50,000. In the end, Councilor Lopez moved to table the matter until the town council could talk to Lewis and then Reynolds to get more information regarding the costs of the training. The motion passed unanimously.

The Mountainair Dispatch presented this discussion at length because the Torrance County Board of County Commissioners also discussed Reynolds the very next day, February 22, 2023. The Dispatch will address the County Commissioners’ meeting in a forthcoming article that will be linked to here.

The Animal Control Vehicle

The Town Council next addressed whether to purchase a topper for the pickup truck used by the town’s Animal Control Officer, Jennifer Carter. Mayor Nieto explained that members of the community had expressed concern regarding transporting animals in the back of the pickup. According to Mayor Nieto, residents were concerned that when Animal Control transported animals, those animals were exposed to the elements. Carter had not been able to get three quotes for a topper from local retailers, Fulfer said. Therefore she had hoped to use Clark Truck Equipment, a business on the New Mexico statewide price agreement (which meant that, by default, its pricing would not be subject to the same competitive bid process for non-price agreement brands) to purchase the topper. The town council unanimously voted to approve the purchase of the topper.

Hand-drawn sketch of a pickup truck, from author's personal graphic design collection.
Hand-drawn sketch of a pickup truck, from author's personal graphic design collection.

Public Comment and Adjournment

During the public comment period, town resident Deb Vetterman asked when the town would fix fire hydrants. Mayor Nieto explained that the town would fix and replace fire hydrants in March, after the snow season. With this public comment addressed, the town council adjourned the meeting.

Boy Leaning on a Fire Hydrant, Morris Huberland (circa 1940), courtesy New York Public Library.
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