County, Mounted Patrol lock horns

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

The future of the Pioneer Days Rodeo could be in peril without a compromise between the county and the Curry County Mounted Patrol, according to an organization spokesperson.

Bob Lacey told the Curry County Commission on Tuesday planning for next year’s rodeo is behind schedule because of the stricter implementation of the fairgrounds lease agreement.

Lacey said his volunteer group is asking the county to waive rental fees for Curry County Mounted Patrol Arena because the rodeo benefits the community.

“We don’t do it to raise money to pay ourselves. We do it for a community service project, not for a fund-raiser,” he said. “I know the question is money — you all want money, and we ain’t got it.”

Held in early June, the rodeo brings thousands of people to Clovis, which is reflected in gross receipt and lodger’s taxes, Lacey said.

“It has, approximately, 180 sponsors,” he said. “If we don’t have a rodeo, we’ll have to call these people and tell them why.”

Commissioner Tim Ashley said the county sees little of the gross receipt and lodger’s taxes since a majority of it goes to the city.

In a July county meeting, Mounted Patrol Captain Rusty Barnes asked commissioners to continue a 30-year agreement allowing the mounted patrol free use of the arena.

At the request of its insurance provider, the county took a stricter approach to enforcing its fairgrounds lease agreements, which require proof of liability insurance for $1 million and a per-day usage fee. The county has also implemented anti-donation measures, which prevent organizations from offering repair work to the county.

Fairgrounds manager Justus Anderson said the usage fees for the fairgrounds vary from $150 a day for daytime-use of the grounds to $450 a day for all-day use.

Lacey submitted a written agreement to commissioners that would allow the patrol to use the fairgrounds for its rodeo without paying the usage fee but will offer repairs and maintenance of the rodeo arena instead. The document also states that the patrol have access to the arena a week before its rodeo.

County Attorney Stephen Doerr said liability issues prevent the county from allowing the mounted patrol to make repairs on the fairgrounds, even if the mounted patrol has insurance for its event.

“We’re getting the impression that it’s your way or the highway, and we’re getting closer to the highway,” Lacey said.

Commissioner Frank Blackburn suggested listing an action item for the Mounted Patrol in the next Commission meeting.

“We’ve left these guys hanging on for too long,” he said.

In other business at Tuesday’s Curry County Commission meeting:
Adult Detention Center Warden Leslie Johnson told commissioners the number of Curry County inmates incarcerated in other counties dropped from about 50 a month to 14 since the women’s annex opened earlier this month.

Johnson said it costs the county $40 per day for each inmate housed in detention centers outside the county.

Commissioners approved property tax rates at 23.92 percent in Clovis compared to 24.97 last year.

Commissioners approved the final plat for the Clovis Industrial Park. The park will be the location of two alternative fuel plants and possible office space for new industries that come into Clovis. City maintenance crews will handle the maintenance of the roads in the park, said Lydick Engineer and Surveyors owner Chad Lydick.

Curry County Commissioner Robert Sandoval expressed his concerns about the county’s ability to operate its special events center without a liquor license.

In a special meeting last week, commissioners voted against applying for a state license to sell beer and wine at the special events center and the county fairgrounds.

“Commissioners, because we didn’t pass this liquor license, I personally feel that we’ve put ourselves between a rock and a hard place to find funding to get the events center going,” he said.

County Manager Dick Smith said the liquor license would attract sponsors for events, which would help pay for operating costs at the $7 million center.

Concerns about alcohol abuse and the message that having liquor at the center would send to children convinced a majority of the commissioners to vote against the motion.

“Responsibility for one’s actions were never once mentioned in all that meeting,” Sandoval said. “I’m 70 years old and I never thought that I could go out and get drunk then come and blame the County Commission for my actions.”