Nonsectarian Prayer To Precede Meetings
The Torrance County Commission has come to a decision about the controversial issue of beginning each meeting with prayer.
At the May 23 commission meeting, residents on both sides again got a chance to have their say.
Tracey Master said she was "troubled" that the issue was brought up by someone that does not even seem to attend meetings regularly.
"To come in and say, 'this is how I want you to do it,' and then to perhaps disappear into the woodwork after … that troubles me," said Master, speaking of Thomas Smith, who originally asked that prayer at meetings be replaced with a moment of silence.
"I do not in the flesh attend meetings on a regular basis … I have attended these meetings vicariously for some time," said Smith, speaking of commission meetings that are broadcast on Youtube. "I'm not calling what's going on here a 'crime,' but I do not have to be at the scene of the crime to report a crime."
In the end, Commissioners Leanne Tapia and Lonnie Freyburger voted in favor of nonsectarian prayer at the beginning of meetings.
To Tapia, it was an issue of money that the county would have to use to fight the issue in court.
"It saddens my heart that there's people out there that make this a really big issue; it shouldn't be … I was put here to look at what's the best interest for the county, and if this is going to continue to be a fight, and we're going to have to pay our attorneys … let's just nip it in the bud," said Tapia.
Commissioner Venessa Chavez-Gutierrez was the dissenting vote.
"This is the most important vote that I will probably ever make as an elected official … I will always want to stand for Jesus Christ, and for every person that believes in a higher power," said Chavez.
Also at the meeting, neighbors of the Founder's Ranch in Edgewood had some complaints about the Warrior Dash that was held there earlier this month. Open fire pits, loud music, trespassers and a lack of security were all cited as problems. Residents also said that they also had a hard time getting in and out of their property because of the large crowds of people.
The commissioners said they would look into what the past County Commission had agreed to as far as events at the Ranch, and also into a special event permit process.
A tax increase was also discussed again — the issue was first brought up a May 15 at a budget meeting.
The tax would be a capital outlay gross receipts tax, the proceeds of which would be dedicated to roads in the county, and would have to be approved by the public in a special election.
The commission decided to move forward with public meetings on the tax, as the first step.
Also, Chavez announced that she will not be stepping down as chairwoman of the commission as Freyburger requested at a meeting last month.
It is the latest development of an investigation into County Manager Joy Ansley and how construction bids are awarded in the county. Although the matter had been sent to the state Attorney General in January, Chavez sent a letter on her own to the State Auditor asking him to investigate.
Freyburger and Tapia were not happy about the move. At the time, Tapia said, "we act as a commission, not one commissioner … it's about having respect for one another."
Also at the meeting, Estancia Mayor Ted Barela asked for help from the county for the town's pool, which is the only public pool in the county.
Chavez moved to pledge $15,000 to help with pool expenses, but the issue had to be tabled until the county's budget is complete.