Public Safety Task Force Works Together For Solutions

City Manager Mark Trujillo opens the Aug. 23 task force meeting on public safety in the Valley. Valley Daily Post photo

Public Safety Task Force Works Together For Solutions

Staff Report

Wednesday, Aug. 23, the City of Española brought together a task force to address public safety in Española and the surrounding region. This task force was originally created a few weeks earlier at a public meeting that invited members of the public and law enforcement to come together to identify public safety and order issues and to brainstorm solutions. Based on that initial meeting, City Manager Mark Trujillo helped organize a second meeting to begin to address identified issues in an organized fashion. The Aug. 23 meeting was focused on reviewing city options for addressing public nuisances such as aggressive panhandling, trash left on private property, drugs, and derelict property. The meeting also heard briefly from area law enforcement agencies and the public was invited to attend a follow-up meeting scheduled for 5:30 on Wednesday, Aug. 30 to meet public safety officers at the Mision y Convento.

Over 60 interested community members participated in the Aug. 23 meeting, along with representatives of local governments and law enforcement agencies. Along with City Councilors Michelle Martinez and Peggy Sue Martinez, Deputy County Manager David Trujillo, Health & Human Services Director Lauren Reichelt, the Rio Arriba Sheriff’s office were there to repersent Rio Arriba County. Representatives from the New Mexico State Police, Ohkay Owingeh Police and Santa Clara Police  were also present. Deputy Chief Eric Gallant, Detective Manny Romero and Municipal Judge Stephen Salazar represented City Law enforcement and the courts. The City was also represented by City Clerk Anna Squires and interim Planning & Land Use Director Elias Isaacson.

A panel of city officials was on hand to take questions regarding the city's nuisance ordinance. Valley Daily Post photo
City Manager Mark Trujillo opened the meeting by restating the purposes is to have people work towards solutions, rather than just complain.
First on the agenda was a review and discussion of the city’s public nuisance ordinances, which among other things covers dilapidated properties or where criminal activity is occurring.

Community members who attended spoke about the need to crack down on property owners who have allowed properties to deteriorate or leave burned out buildings un-remedied. In particular, participants singled out a building on Riverside Drive that was destroyed in a fire in March but has not been demolished or repaired (see previous story HERE). 

Trujillo said the city was moving forward with notifying the property owners about the need to remedy the situation but explained that Ordinance 254, which covers these issues currently has a set timetable that prescribes how quickly to the city can move towards a summons. Trujillo also said the property in question is jointly owned by several family members and in such situations, it takes longer for them to organize a solution to the problem.
City Manager Mark Trujillo talks with individual meeting participants. Valley Daily Post photo

Aggressive panhandling in store parking lots was also discussed, with residents voicing concerns over safety and the possible loss to local businesses if people chose to leave town to shop.

City Councilor Michelle Martinez who chairs the Public Safety Committee for the city asked everyone attending to also attend a follow up meeting Wednesday, Aug. 30 from 5:30-7:30. This meeting is an “After Hours” event sponsored by the City, of Española, the Española Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Española Police and Fire Departments and Lowe’s Home Improvement Store. Food and refreshments will be provided and public safety officials and first responders will be on hand to meet people individually and answer questions. The event will occur in the Mision y Convento on the Plaza.

Further Community Task Force meetings addressing public safety will be scheduled in the upcoming weeks.

Over 40 members of the public attended the meeting, along with public officials from both city and county governments. Valley Daily Post photo