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County appoints Lotrich as new district manager

With four Socorro County commissioners present, the board voted unanimously to offer the Socorro County manager position to Andrew Lotrich at their meeting last week.

Commissioner Glenn Duggins was not present for the vote.

“We had some very good candidates,” said Ray Martinez, commissioner. “It is difficult to choose someone for this difficult position and I would like to thank everyone who applied, especially from our region.”

County Attorney Adren Nance said the selection would be the start of the hiring process.

Budget
Following a public hearing on the budget for the 2024 to 2025 fiscal year, the meeting approved a budget that included a 5% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for employees, a new deputy manager position and fair wages for the sheriff’s department included.

Sammie Vega Finch, interim county manager, presented three budgets at the request of the commissioners, one with a 3% COLA, 4% COLA and 5% COLA. The latter included pay increases for the sheriff’s department and the new position of deputy manager.

Vega Finch said the 5% COLA budget would put the county in about $400,000, “which is the most revenue left in a budget that we’ve seen so far, at least within the time I’ve been here. Your revenues are coming in well and I predict they will remain strong over the next three years. It looks like we can keep it all going for the next three years.”

Sheriff Lee Armijo was asked by the board what he thought about the fair wages proposed in the budget for the sheriff’s department. Armijo said his heart felt better when Vega Finch was able to come up with a pay increase for his department without cutting a position.

“This definitely makes me very happy and I’m sure it will make the guys very happy too. It’s not just about making $30 an hour, it’s more about showing that we care and that we’re doing everything we can we can,” Armijo said.

Emergency services
Jason Everett, on behalf of the Socorro Fire Chief’s Association, gave a presentation to the committee on the challenges facing emergency services in Socorro County, along with a proposal to address them.

He discussed high call volume, recruitment and retention challenges, expanded service area, transfers between facilities, dispatch issues, PTSD, funding and the lack of volunteers and paramedics in rural areas.

Everett said paramedics are essential in rural areas like ours. “The bottom line is that people are dying in our province who could otherwise be saved, there’s no question about that.”

He proposed a partnership between Socorro County Commissioners and the Socorro City Council to create a stakeholder working group that would commission a study to collect and analyze data that could provide guidance on improving the current emergency services.

“We can do more and if we get creative and work together, I am confident we can come up with a plan that is reasonable to fund and save lives.” Everette said.

Commissioner Joe Gonzales agreed it needed to get better and said he would continue to discuss it with Everett.

For other matters, the following agenda items were approved:
• A lease of the Veguita Senior Center to the City of Socorro for one year, effective July 1.
• The RISE Grant of approximately $315,000 for 2025.
• A $3,000 donation to CASA, a court-appointed child advocacy organization, pending administrative capacity.
• The proclamation of May as Motorcycle Awareness Month.
• The Owl Bar liquor license for outdoor patio.
•A recognition of the Chinhene Nde Nation of New Mexico

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