Sunday, October 1, 2023

Village Caught in Middle of Dispute Over Dispatch Center


The village of Corrales is caught in the middle of a dispute over operations of the Sandoval County Regional Emergency Communications Center (SCRECC), facing a Sept. 15 deadline to pick a side.

The SCRECC was formed in 2003 and operates under a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) between Sandoval County, the city of Rio Rancho, the town of Bernalillo, Santa Ana Pueblo and Corrales, with Rio Rancho the designated fiscal agent.

Sandoval County, however, has gone on record as being dissatisfied with the arrangement and is contesting the legal status of the SCRECC board, made up of police and fire chiefs from each agency. The county has also accused the city of being in violation of the JPA.

Last month, County Manager Wayne Johnson sent a letter to elected officials for each entity, saying the county had exhausted efforts with Rio Rancho to find a resolution and called for mediation.

Rio Rancho City Manager Matt Geisel replied by saying mediation was premature because Bernalillo, Corrales and Santa Ana had not yet responded to separate proposals from the county and Rio Rancho about restating the JPA, which was last updated in 2015.

Geisel gave Bernalillo, Corrales and Santa Ana a Sept. 15 deadline to respond to the proposals, effectively asking each entity to pick a side.

The letter could be interpreted as an ultimatum. Geisel wrote that if that matter couldn’t be worked out, Rio Rancho would take steps to remove itself from the JPA.

Meanwhile, Sandoval County has already signaled that it’s considering moving away from the JPA. Last month, the county commission included a new dispatch center on its list of Infrastructure Capital Improvement Projects for the first time. Projects that make the list have increased chances of getting funding from the state.

While each governmental entity contributes to the operation of the dispatch center, the SCRECC is staffed by Rio Rancho employees and the city administers its budget.

Village Administrator Ron Curry described what’s been happening with the SCRECC board as a “power struggle” between Rio Rancho and Sandoval County when he brought up the matter at the Aug. 22 village council meeting.

“We just want to do what’s best for the village,” he said.

Mayor Jim Fahey said the village “doesn’t want to get in between” the city and county over the dispute.

“We’re all part of a team, but I don’t care who does it,” he said, later adding that mediation sounded good to him.

But Corrales can’t help but be in the middle. Fire Chief Anthony Martinez was recently picked to chair the SCRECC board, taking over for Sandoval County Fire Chief Eric Masterson.

Councilor Bill Woldman said he recently attended a meeting and learned that about 70% of all emergency calls originate in Rio Rancho. The mayor added that Corrales accounts for only about 3% of the calls to the dispatch center.

Councilor Stuart Murray expressed concern that Rio Rancho would have too much control over the operation if it gets its way. He also feared the village could get left out.

“I have no problem with the Joint Powers Agreement,” he said. “My concern is if we don’t respond, they’ll go with local communications.”

Fahey said the village would respond and that he had already talked to Rio Rancho Mayor Greggory Hull about the matter. He said Hull had made a “good offer” but he rather the village stay out of it.

“I’ve opted to let them work it out. Mediation sounds good to me.”

In response to follow up questions, Fahey said he supports an amicable agreement that ensures the communities get fast responses to emergencies.

“I am in complete support of an agreement that does that for all of our communities in a cooperative resolution regardless of who is in charge,” he said. “Our focus is the safety of our community and how we can do that efficiently and effectively.”


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