Startup of new county fire department delayed
Plans for firing up the new Sandoval County Fire Department have been pushed back to July 1, which doesn't sit well with Bernalillo Mayor Charles Aguilar.
Aguilar said the town had been anticipating a January 1 startup, which would reduce the town subsidy for ambulance services. That subsidy, roughly $300,000 a year, has forced the town to dip into its cash reserves and raised questions from state finance officials about the town's financial future.
“I know we're going to have to subsidize it to some tune, but I thought the subsidy would be reduced January first,” Aguilar said after being told of the delay. “My question is, if the tax is being collected, why are we still contributing to the fund?”
The emergency-medical-services tax, one-quarter of 1 percent on sales and services, was approved by county voters and has been in effect since last July 1. That and a similar fire fund tax are being used to set up the countywide fire department with both full-time paid staff and local volunteers.
Under the plan, the town ambulance service, which responds to about seventeen hundred calls a year in the town and the county, would join the county department. Town personnel passing agility tests would become county employees and be cross-trained in firefighting, according to EMS consultant Stan Holden.
Holden told town councilors that resolving those personnel issues contributed to delaying the creation of the county department. The late hiring of county fire chief Jon Tibbets added to the delay, he said.
Holden appeared before the council with a resolution to extend the current agreement with the county through June 30 and to lease the town EMS building and equipment to the county effective July 1. He estimated the town subsidy would drop to $100,000 annually when the county takes over.
However, the council tabled the resolution pending a meeting with the county on the subsidy issue.
“We've provided this service since 1989 to the whole county with us paying about two-thirds of the bill,” town administrator Lester Swindle said. “It seems simple to shift that two-thirds to the new entity.”
As part of past agreements, the county later authorized a $97,404 payment to the town as its share of ambulance expenses during the budget year that ended June 30, 2004. County commissioners also approved publication of the proposed ordinance that would create the county fire department and establish responsibilities for the county chief, volunteer district chiefs, and medical director.
Earlier the commission approved a $5 million bond issue to begin acquiring equipment and land and to build staffed fire stations in Placitas near I-25, west of Bernalillo, and in the Jemez Valley.
County offers free tobacco-cessation classes
Free classes to help residents succeed in stopping tobacco use are being offered by Sandoval County's Tobacco Use Prevention and Control staff.
A seven-week Freedom From Smoking program will begin January 11 at the county's Health Commons complex at 1500-B Idalia Road in Bernalillo, just west of NM 528 and Idalia Road. The two-hour classes will be held at 6:00 p.m. on every Tuesday and one Thursday through February 22.
To register, contact Laura Hellwig, Sandoval County's tobacco preventionist, 867-7653.
Hellwig said the highly structured program would be led by a member of the American Lung Association and would combine educational materials, support strategies, and other methods proven to help tobacco users succeed in quitting smoking.
“More than 2,100 New Mexicans will die of tobacco-related illnesses each year,” Hellwig said. “Research shows that about 70 percent of adult tobacco users would like to quit and that success in quitting the tobacco habit greatly increases with the help of a proven support group. The county's program can help turn the desire to quit smoking into a very healthful reality.”
Sandoval County's Tobacco Use Prevention and Control program is funded by the state Department of Health.
Nonprofits request $8.5 Million from United Way
88 Agencies Apply for Funding for 134 Programs
Eighty-eight central New Mexico nonprofit agencies submitted funding proposals to United Way of Central New Mexico by the December 10 deadline. The proposals seek funding from United Way’s Community Fund, a fund designed to help the most vulnerable people in Bernalillo, Sandoval,Torrance, and Valencia counties. Donors to United Way may designate their gift to United Way’s Community Fund, to any nonprofit organization in the world, or to a combination of both. The funds sought in the proposals are only from the Community Fund. Donations that are directed by donors to specific agencies are sent, in their entirety, to those organizations and are not part of the Community Fund.
United Way of Central New Mexico accepts applications for Community Fund dollars from any nonprofit human-service agency in the four-county area. It is an open, competitive process, focused on serving the most vulnerable central New Mexicans. The annual fund drive is well underway, but will not be finalized until the end of February 2005.
Anyone wishing to contribute to the United Way of Central New Mexico’s annual fund drive can do so by calling 247-3671 or by going to www.uwcnm.org/donate.htm.