COMMISSIONER SAVES COUNTY DWI FUNDING

COMMISSIONER SAVES COUNTY DWI FUNDING

After state-threatened suspensions of two large DWI grants to Doña Ana County, District 5 County Commissioner Gilbert T. Apodaca went to Albuquerque to personally convince the state of the county’s ability and willingness to continue management and oversight of DWI grant funding in the area.

Apodaca, Interim County Manager Brian D. Haines and county Health Services Director Silvia Sierra attended the state DWI Council meeting in Albuquerque last week to make their case for continuing the funding. Apodaca is a member of the council by virtue of his being president of the New Mexico Association of Counties. During the course of the meeting, he also was elected vice-chair of the DWI Council.

The Local Government Division of the State Department of Finance and Administration sent an April 11 letter threatening to suspend the county’s two existing DWI grants and to revoke the county’s eligibility for grant funding in the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The state’s action followed the resignation of former DWI Coordinator Anne Shine-Ring, who alleged “fiscal management concerns” as a factor in her resignation.

Apodaca convinced state authorities that Shine-Ring’s management of the grant was problematic, and her resignation stemmed from her unwillingness to follow procedure and work within the designated chain of command.

While admitting that there have been some shortcomings in the past associated with the grant, Apodaca used correspondence from the state to bolster his argument that the county’s administration of the grant through 2002 had been audited without any substantive concerns about operational stability or fiscal management. He further committed the county to making any additional improvements to streamline the grant process and to move quickly to rectify any areas of future concern on the part of the state.

Apodaca also offered an extensive list of programs and initiatives that Doña Ana County has used state DWI grant funds to pursue in the fight against drunken drivers. Among the programs he touted were the “Every Fifteen Minutes” program, which teaches high school students the real-time impact of a DWI accident. He also cited the county’s successful implementation of several ongoing media campaigns, all of which are augmented by frequent law-enforcement roadblocks and saturation patrols.

Doña Ana County will continue to administer the existing DWI grant funding through June 30, and has been awarded $570,000 in new DWI funding effect July 1.

For more information, call Jess Williams, director of public information, at (505) 647-7229. Anyone calling from outside the Las Cruces area may call toll-free at 1-877-827-7200 and request extension 7229.