By Karl Terry: Freedom Newspapers
Eastern New Mexico University Regents unanimously approved a resolution Friday addressing noxious odors from outside the campus.
The vote, which drew a packed house, clears the way for the university’s administration to speak on behalf of the school at a New Mexico Environment Department public hearing on a sewer lagoon permit for Stepping Stone Dairy. The dairy is located just outside city limits south of the campus.
While the issue has come up recently on the agendas of Roosevelt County commissioners and Portales City Council, the regents are the only board to take action on the issue. Some who spoke at Friday’s meeting doubted that having the administration speak up at the May 10 hearing would make a difference. But regents said they had a responsibility to the institution to act.
“There’s no way we have the authority to intervene in city and county business,” Regents President Jay Gurley said. “We know what our authority is. But we have a responsibility as regents to protect the well-being of our students and faculty.”
Regent Alva Carter noted the multitude of conflicts of interest among those debating the issue. Carter said they ranged from Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega Jr., who also works at the university, to university agriculture instructors who have utilized the proximity of the Stepping Stone Dairy as a convenience for agriculture students doing field work, to his own ownership of a dairy in the county.
Dairy owner/operator Kevin Breshears, who took over the dairy last year, said he’s not putting in the lagoon because he wants to; he’s been ordered by NMED to build it. He’s also noted it will be lined and is being constructed at the back of the property as far away from neighboring residences as possible. He said it will be fenced when completed.
ENMU President Steven Gamble told regents he plans to tell NMED at the hearing the institution is a dairy-friendly university and recognizes the dairy business is the area’s economic engine.
“At the same time there needs to be a balance,” Gamble said. “It’s starting to tip a little bit in the disfavor of the community.”