SPOTLIGHT ON THE COUNTY’S COMMITMENT TO COMMUNITY

SPOTLIGHT ON THE COUNTY’S COMMITMENT TO COMMUNITY

By Brian Haines
Interim County Manager

This month, I’d like to shine a spotlight on some people and programs in Doña Ana County that make a difference in people’s lives in this area. I’m proud of our county work force – both paid staff and volunteers – who work day in and day out to make our community a better place to live. The following brief snapshots will show you some of what we do.

FREE SMOKE DETECTORS

On April 27, Ralph Oliver lost his home of 47 years to a kitchen fire. The house was not equipped with a smoke detector. On Friday, June 6, at 11:30 a.m. at their new home at 226 Turquoise Lane in the Las Brisas Mobile Home Park, Oliver and his family were the first recipients of free smoke detectors given out by the South Valley Volunteer Fire Department. The SVVFD is one of 16 volunteer fire departments in Doña Ana County.

The Oliver family’s smoke alarm is one of 400 available for free distribution to families in the area as a result of a $1,200 grant secured by the SVVFD. The grant was sufficient to pay for 200 smoke detectors, but when Lowe’s of Las Cruces found out about the program, the store donated an additional 200 units for distribution.

Rebecca Amati, a two-year volunteer of the SVVFD and a 10-year veteran of volunteer firefighting, said she worked closely with Lee Ann Smith of Region II Emergency Medical Services, Inc., to secure the grant from the Injury Prevention and EMS Bureau of the New Mexico Public Health Division.

The First Alert smoke detectors being distributed sound an 85-decibel alarm when smoke is detected in a home. They also feature a low-battery warning. The free smoke detectors will be distributed to families based on financial need, with particular emphasis on families who live in mobile homes and on residences where small children and/or senior citizens reside.

To apply for one of the free smoke detectors, leave a message at the SVVFD at (505) 525-2737 or visit the Doña Ana County Fire Marshal’s Office at 1170 N. Solano Drive in Las Cruces. The application forms are short and easy to understand, and processing an application can usually occur within three business days. All smoke detectors distributed as part of this program will be installed by volunteer firefighters.

PROACTIVE FLOOD PREVENTION

Doña Ana County’s Flood Commission has been recognized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a leader in community protection, loss prevention and mitigation of flood risks.

In the spring edition of the PBS&J newsletter that serves FEMA Regions 5, 6 and 7, Doña Ana County is singled out for its use of the Cooperating Technical Partners program, which involves collaboration between individual community agencies, FEMA, and other state and local agencies who have an interest in updated and accurate flood plain maps. The program stresses the benefit of pooled resources in updating maps that can be used by the National Flood Insurance Program to assign flood risks for developed areas.

“In Region 6, Doña Ana County has shown unfettered zeal for the CTP program,” the newsletter states. “Dedicated to improving their community, they use the CTP program as a tool to reduce flood risks and prevent losses. They have also made a commitment to submit quality data by carefully following FEMA’s Guidelines and Specifications for Flood Hazard Mapping Partners. Despite the fact that it was not in their original scope of work, Doña Ana County expects to submit a fully compliant GIS database. Their enthusiasm is worthy of praise.”

Flood Commission Director Paul Dugie said the article affirms the value of the hard work he and his staff have been doing to serve at-risk residents insured against flood damage across Doña Ana County by updating old maps and submitting new data to regional and national databases.

“This recognition is important to us,” Dugie said, “because it shows that our peers in the discipline recognize the quality of work coming out of our small office. The residents and taxpayers of Doña Ana County should feel very proud of this recognition.”

COMMUNITY BEAUTIFICATION

On May 30, President George W. Bush issued a public thanks to volunteers across the United States who participated in activities sponsored by the Keep America Beautiful initiative.

The president’s words were particularly heartening to the Doña Ana County Environmental Department, through whose offices nine community cleanups were coordinated during the last several months. Collectively, the cleanups in Doña Ana County benefited the communities of Vado, Rody, Ft. Selden, Chaparral and Anthony and the neighborhoods of Holman Road, Picacho Hills, Talavera. The Doña Ana County Sheriff’s firing range also was spruced up.

Using gloves, bags and disposal trailers provided by the county, more than 480 volunteers collected more than 120,000 pounds of litter and debris. In addition to the neighborhood clean-ups, 55 illegal dump sites were cleaned, 15 junk cars were removed, two tons of metal and aluminum were recycled, 8,000 tires were removed and 25 batteries were recycled during the initiative.

For more information on community clean-ups or the Keep America Beautiful initiative in Doña Ana County, call the Environmental Department at (505) 647-7117. Residents calling from outside the Las Cruces area may call toll-free at 1-877-827-7200 and request extension 7117.