By ERIC MADDY
The administrative nightmare that Sandoval County’s oil and gas ordinance appears it will be over after the coming election but before any new commissioners will take office.
After some discussion but at the behest of Chairman Dave Heil, commissioners agreed to have two work sessions in an attempt to craft the ordinance before taking a vote on December 13, the only meeting that month.
The county’s Planning and Zoning Commission, which was tasked with the job of pulling together an ordinance, has been unable to do so.
The work sessions are scheduled for Oct. 18 and Nov. 8. Public comment will not be taken at either work session, with input reserved before the projected December vote.
It was important to set a schedule to make sure the county met the notice requirements of the state’s Open Meetings Act, which requires the proposed ordinance be published at least 30 days in advance of any vote.
The issue dates back to 2015 when SandRidge Energy, an Oklahoma-based company, was granted a permit to drill test wells in Rio Rancho Estates west of the city. Public outcry of the possible use of “fracking” led the county to consider establishing an ordinance to govern mineral extraction.
SandRidge later withdrew its application to do business in the county, but the process has labored on.
The commission also took up several other issues, including:
*Setting the mill levy rates for property taxes in the coming year. Rates went down in every municipality except Rio Rancho and Corrales, whose voters self-imposed bond issues in elections in the spring.
*Agreed to waive normal procedures to fast-track a resolution that would amend the commission’s rules of procedure by requiring employees and public officials to discuss an issue with the appropriate department leaders before speaking at a commission meeting. Just how that would play against First Amendment rights remains to be seen.
*Tabled a request by the City of Rio Rancho to schedule a joint meeting until after the election, where two commission seats are up for grabs.
*Approved a resolution to give the Town of Bernalillo $320,00 to help offset unexpected utility line relocation costs associated with the U.S. 550 construction – if the money can be found somewhere in the budget.
*Agreed to spend $140,000 for a full body scanner for the detention center.
*Heard presentations on the construction by the New Mexico Gas Company through Budagher Estates; an update from Presbyterian Rust Hospital; and an update on the county’s transportation asset -management plan (i.e. tracking road inventory, construction and needs). Preliminary figures indicate 34f percent of the county-maintained roads, about 500 miles, are deemed to be in poor condition.