District 2 candidates talk on the issues

By Jack King

District 2 Commissioner Pete Hulder, a Republican, is running for re-election. He has two opponents in the June 1 Republican primary — Carol S. Nichols and Ray Montoya. Since he has no Democratic challengers, the race will be decided in the primary.

Last week, the three candidates spoke with the Clovis News Journal on a variety of issues surrounding county government.

• Qualifications
Hulder: I have been on the commission for 3 1/2 years. I know what the county’s problems are. Those who haven’t been serving can only speculate. I’m not going to make promises I can’t keep.

I worked for the city of Clovis for 14 years, as an internal auditor, then as their director of emergency management and administrator of the Community Development Block Grants program. Finally, as administrator of Clovis Memorial Hospital on Thornton. I retired in 1999 and was elected a county commissioner in 2000.

Montoya: I was born and raised in Clovis. I’ve been the owner of the Sunglass Source for 10 years. I believe I could bring my business and work experience to the commission. I know constituents want to be able to talk to someone. I don’t think my opponent has been non-effective. I just feel the public is not his interest when he makes his decisions.

The county commission needs to work more together at this point. I’m a team player. Several county commissioners and city commissioners have asked me to run. I won’t identify them, because I don’t want to do anything negative against my opponent.

Nichols: I was born and raised in Clovis and grew up in a business environment. My father, Charles Hager, owned Hager Signs and my mom, Ethelyne Hager, owned three dress shops. I’ve been involved in politics since I was a teenager, have worked on a number of campaigns, and have been involved, as a parent, in local schools. I was named “Businesswoman of the Year” by the National Association of Businesswomen in 1998.

• Hulder on the issues
County budget: We have to come up with a balanced budget while still addressing the need for a salary increase for county employees. We’re still about $200,000 short of balancing the county budget and that’s including the two tax hikes we’ve just approved.

We’ve passed gross receipts tax increases and we have some property taxes, but there’s nothing we can do to affect the amounts we collect from those. There are another two mils of property tax we could enact, but it would be unreasonable to go to the voters and ask for those. I would not support it.

Jail: The budget shortfall is driven by expenses at the adult detention center. We have to find a solution to that.
The county jail committee, of which I am a member, has talked to judges about alternative sentencing, such as house arrest with the use of ankle bracelets. We’ve also talked about a special drug court that imposes probation conditions, mandatory treatment and work programs for nonviolent offenders, although it remains to be seen what the county’s expense would be on that.

We need to speed up processing times and reduce hearings delays, within legal boundaries, so we reduce the time people stay in the system.

The jail annex, we know, is a short-term solution. It can hold 72 people and (it) will take seven months to build. If prisoner rates start to decline, we may not go beyond that. If they continue to rise, it will give us some time to build a new jail or a regional facility, which would cost $15 million and be three to four years down the road. We’re also looking at the use of portable jail cells, in addition to the annex.”

Special Events Center: The voters passed a $3 million bond in 2001 to fund a special events center. Nothing ever came of it. We have to live within that $3 million amount, but the least amount we’ve seen to build a special events center is $5 million. I’ve supported anything I thought would work for the money. We’ve come to the decision that if we can (remodel) the existing facility, we can build a special events center and another, smaller, arena. I think we have an obligation to provide the public with essentially what they expected when they voted on the bonds.

• Montoya on the issues
Law Enforcement: (Hulder) is opposed to adding more staff due to tax reasons, but I notice in the paper he wants to increase taxes.

Taxes: I know they are going to happen, but I just feel there should have been a better way to present it to the public.

County Deficit: Honestly, I’m not up to speed on that issue. If I were elected I would work hard to be creative in finding solutions. Where the budget is right now is all due to the commission. If they had done things differently, possibly we wouldn’t have had to raise taxes. But, I’m not opposed to it. I know it has to happen.

What to do differently? Again, I don’t have the specific answers for that. I just know I can help if I’m in the position.
• Nichols on the issues
Jail: I’d really like to see them put in a regional facility. That way all surrounding counties can benefit. To me the jail annex, with 74 beds, is bandaiding the situation.

Special Events Center: I’d like to see the special events center put on hold for a while, until we get to a better solution than what we’ve come up with now, maybe a combined city/county facility.

Communication: We seem to have a communication problem, where they are not allowing people to speak. I was at a meeting about the convention center where people were cut short. I would allow constituents to speak, and I would listen.

• New initiatives if elected
Hulder: The most important task before the county is to balance the budget. To do that we need to deal with the jail problem and make a decision about the special events center. Other than that, I would support a salary study for county employees. We have to address that, particularly since the economy in Clovis/Curry County has skyrocketed.

Montoya: I would be accessible to my constituents. I know they want to be able to talk to someone.

Nichols: I would have more deputies on the street. I’m really strong on public safety. Curry County is growing and it’s getting out of hand. Also, I would like to see a rehabilitation center for children that are re-offenders. It could have a 30-day program for drug and alcohol treatment.

• Finances
Hulder:
Contributions: $1,370
Expenditures: $1,288
Treasurer: Stan Ware

Montoya:
Contributions: 0
Expenditures: $3,000
Treasurer: self

Nichols:
Contributions: $2,100
Expenditures: $1,458
Treasurer: Charles Hager