By Roger Lanse
At its July 9, 2019 meeting of the Silver City Town Council, District 3 Councilor Jose Ray Jr. introduced an ordinance, sponsored by him, allowing ROVs (recreational off-road vehicles) on city streets within the town of Silver City. This same measure had been defeated by council on a 3-2 vote in 2018.
Nine residents spoke to council on the ROV subject during the public comment time, four against the measure, three of which were members of the Silver City Trails and Open Spaces Advisory Committee, and five for it.
Ray explained the difference between ROVs, to which the ordinance is aimed, and ATVs, to which many opposed to the ordinance referred. Ray said, “We’ve got to remember that we are not pushing for ATVs. We have never said that. We have always pushed for UTVs. There’s a big difference between the UTVs and ATVs. We discussed this the last time around with the trails people and we told them we are not going there (meaning San Vicente Creek), and we haven’t gone there.
“These vehicles,” Ray continued, “Are not loud as some people claim to be. They’re not loud. Your diesel trucks are louder.”
Silver City Police Chief Freddie Portillo, said he still has safety issues with ROVs as he always has had, in particular with the three state highways going through the town; 180, 90, and 15. However, he stated to council that he has contacted several other agencies and municipalities in New Mexico, specifically, Alamogordo, T or C, Clovis, Farmington, Red River, Grants, and Roswell.
“Speaking to all these police departments,” Portillo stated, “I talked to lieutenants, sergeants, those who are on the street, about some of these issues and I can tell you that they’re very minimal, pretty much next to none. The hardest part for them was probably getting people into compliance, which is going to take some time. It’s going to take some man power from me. I’ll be up front with you.”
Portillo said if council wanted a trial period with the ROVs, the police department was willing to work with council. He stated that’s what a lot of the police departments he contacted did -- they had trial periods that went up to a year. It will also take some time to educate his staff and the public, according to Portillo.
Mayor Ken Ladner described a conversation he had with the mayor of T or C. “She (the mayor) said: ‘When we were considering this we had a packed council room. Half the people were for it and half were against it. It was a pretty emotional meeting, but the council passed it. And, then those who were opposed to it went out and did a special referendum and it didn’t pass.’” “She continued, ‘The amazing thing is when I drive around downtown, I really don’t see that many and those that I do see are usually driving slow, not speeding or making a lot of noise.’” “She said, ‘The noise thing is a bad rap.’”
Council approved the ordinance on a split vote, 3-1, with District 2 Councilor Lynda-Aiman Smith voting ‘nay.’ She told council of some 40 emails and phone calls she has received on the ROV ordinance only one was in favor of passing it.
Ladner ended the discussion saying: ”Let’s give it a chance.”
On another issue, four residents complained about the noise, fire danger, and length of time to legally shoot off fireworks, and asked council to address their concerns.
Town Clerk Ann Mackie asked council to consolidate a single polling location for the March 3, 2020 municipal officer election for those precincts in Districts 1 and 3. She requested the location be designated at the Woman’s Club, 1715 Silver Heights Blvd.
Aiman-Smith noted the District 2 Territorial Charter Day will be Saturday, July 13, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. behind the old Water Works building on Little Walnut Road. She also said the Air Force’s draft environmental impact statement for the Holloman Air Force Base F-16 Training Program is expected to be available this fall.
District 1 Councilor Cynthia Bettison stated that New Mexico Western University Museum will be celebrating its 45th anniversary on Sunday, July 14, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
District 4 Councilor Guadalupe Cano praised the SCPD for the professional way she saw a female officer handle an obnoxious driver on July 4.
Ray urged residents to clean up fireworks litter after setting them off in the streets. He also said at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 13, at the Knights of Columbus, a meeting will be held to discuss a SPIN (Supporting People in Need) project in the Senior Center area.
Town Manager Alex Brown mentioned that the entire Gough Park will be fenced for this weekend’s town-sponsored Wine Festival and stated that "for the long-term sustainability of some of the events we have in town this is the way we need to go."