Doña Ana County



ANTHONY -- More than 40 concerned parents met with representatives from Doña Ana County and the Gadsden Independent School District Tuesday evening to discuss safety issues near the village’s two elementary schools.

After listening to several residents step up to the microphone in the Loma Linda Elementary School Gymnasium to air their concerns, County Commissioner Eduardo “Lalo” Medina reassured them that the county would take immediate steps on many safety issues and would work with the residents to lobby for funding to address still others.

Among the concerns raised by parents and residents were: lack of traffic signage in the school areas; lack of lighting around the schools and neighborhood streets; lack of fresh paint on the crosswalks; lack of adequate crossing guards when school starts and lets out; and lack of Sheriff’s patrol presence on nights and weekends.

Medina promised the residents that crosswalks would be repainted and signage placed around the schools (indicating speed limits, crossing hours and crossing zones) “shortly” and that the county would begin work immediately to find funds for more lighting and a beefed-up presence by sheriff’s deputies. He also said he would work to get a toll-free, 24-hour, non-emergency number installed whereby residents could reach the sheriff’s department during hours when the local substation is closed.

Doña Ana County Sheriff Jim Robles told the residents that bike patrols and community policing, coupled with an emergent Neighborhood Watch program in Anthony, already have caused a drop in the area’s crime rate. He said more community participation would help, and he encouraged residents to get involved and to volunteer time to address safety issues in conjunction with the Sheriff’s Office.

Gadsden Schools superintendent Roger Parks also spoke, and told the residents that a new crossing guard would be hired immediately to escort children arriving to and departing from Anthony Elementary School each day.

Loma Linda Elementary School principal Ken Servais promised to open up his school’s playground for evening and weekend hours if the surrounding neighbors would help watch out for vandals and volunteer to supervise the playground after hours.

The meeting was punctuated by applause as each concern raised by the residents was addressed. J.C. Fernandez, the resident who proposed and facilitated the meeting, promised more community participation and volunteerism to lobby for funds, insure safety around the schools and beef up Neighborhood Watch programs throughout the community.

And the community’s parish priest, Andres Alaya, pledged to use his pulpit as a forum for encouraging more community members to get involved on a daily basis to address a wide range of issues concerning safety and recreational opportunities for the youth of Anthony.

The meeting, which started at 5:30 p.m. and ran until nearly 8 p.m., began with an admonition from Fernandez that the idea was to generate ideas and solutions rather than point fingers or assess blame. Medina praised the approach as a pro-active stance that set a working tone for community advancement. After the meeting ended, county and school officials were shaking hands and smiling with residents.

“This is a great start,” Fernandez said. “This is exactly what we wanted to accomplish.”