RC council approve new ordinances


Three months after the city of Rio Communities officially incorporated, the city council passed four new ordinances — or laws — for its citizens.

The ordinances were accepted Tuesday at the city's regular council meeting. A public hearing on several ordinances was held two weeks ago with little to no public comment, and the council decided to postpone the vote on establishing a criminal code and animal control ordinance until the next meeting on Oct. 22.

A 174-page uniform traffic ordinance was approved by a 3-1 vote. Councilor Kaylon Northcut voted against it, but didn't state his reasons why.

The traffic ordinance, adopted in municipalities throughout the state, outlines what is and is not legal on the streets and roads in Rio Communities, such as speed zones, mandatory use of seatbelts and operating a motor vehicle under the influence of liquor or drugs.

The council unanimously approved the city's burn ordinance, which mirrors many of ordinances throughout the county. Rio Communities residents are required to contact the county's 911 dispatch center when they plan to burn on their property to inquire if it's a burn day or not.

"This ordinances covers the process that our residents will have to take before burning on their property," said Mayor Mark Gwinn.

On days when burning is allowed, it can only occur between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., as stipulated in the state Environment Department Open Burn Act. The ordinance also outlines what materials can and cannot be burned. Burning of trash on private property or on streets and alleys is prohibited.

Anyone found guilty of violating the burn ordinance can face a fine of not more than $500 or imprisonment for not more than 90 days in jail, or both.

An ordinance on the sale, use and possession of fireworks in the city of Rio Communities was passed with a 3-1 vote; Northcutt again cast the "no" vote.

The ordinance states no person or store shall sell fireworks within the city without first obtaining a permit, and fireworks may only be sold between June 20 and July 6 of each year, three days preceding and including New Year's Day and the Chinese New Year, the 16th of September and Cinco de Mayo.

Fireworks allowed in Rio Communities include ground and hand-held sparkling and smoke devices, such as cone fountains, crackling devices, cylindrical fountains and flitter sparklers. Those not allowed include aerial spinners, helicopters, mines, missile-type rockets, roman candles and stick-type rockets.

Those convicted of violating the ordinance shall be punished by a fine of not more than $500, or imprisonment of not more than 90 days in jail, or both.

Gwinn was forced to break a tie vote on a motion to approve an ordinance regarding personal property used in criminal or illegal activity in Rio Communities. Northcutt and Councilor Cyndi Sluder voted against the ordinance, while Councilors Frank Stasi and Mary Lee Serna voted yes. Gwinn supported the ordinance.

"We need an attorney on board before we get on this," Northcutt said before casting his vote. "We need to have a city attorney to look at this before we go any further."

Gwinn said Randy Van Vleck, an attorney with the New Mexico Municipal League, had looked at the ordinance and gave his approval.

Northcutt then said he doesn't have access to the attorney like Gwinn does, and didn't feel comfortable going forward without talking to an attorney.

In other business, the council:

• Discussed approving a lease agreement with Ron Gentry, who offered his building at 303 Rio Communities Blvd. to the city for its city hall for $1 per year. Gwinn said the office space would be used for a city clerk, treasurer and the council.

With Serna and Northcutt abstaining from voting, Stasi and Sluder voted to approve the agreement. After Gwinn said he would vote to approve, Serna told the mayor that he couldn't vote to break the tie when two of the votes were to abstain.

"Did you talk to a lawyer about this," Stasi questioned Serna.

"I don't like your attitude," Serna replied. "Yes, I did talk to a lawyer and he said when two abstain and two vote yes, then it dies."

One Wednesday morning, Gwinn said in researching New Mexico state statutes and Robert's Rules of Order, which the council approved in July, he believes that the vote to approve the lease agreement passed regardless if the two councilors abstained from the vote.

He said abstaining basically means that they refused to vote, and the two yes votes approved the motion.

• Voted to table a motion to approve Gwinn's recommendation of members to the city's planning and zoning commission. The mayor recommended the council approve five men, Bob Skerry, Scott Adair, Jim Winters, Darren Halterman and Arturo Sais, to the commission.

"They all live in Rio Communities and have done various projects in Rio Communities," Gwinn said. "They all bring various skills from around the country, the county and state."

Gwinn said he received eight recommendations from various councilors, interviewed them and chose his final five to bring before the council. The other three recommendations were LE Rubin, Bill Brown and George Moscona.

"I know two of the men, but not the other three," Northcutt said. "I'd like time to sit down with them and get to know them before we approve."

"I didn't realized the council had to interview them," Stasi said.

Sluder recommended the council meet with the candidates as a panel at the council's next workshop before voting on the motion.

"I hate to delay it, but we need an open dialogue and so everyone can feel comfortable," Sluder said.

The motion to table the action item was approved 3-1, with Stasi voting no.

A collaborative effort workshop between the cities of Rio Communities and Belen is scheduled fro 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 15, at the Belen Public Library to discuss possible law enforcement protection in Rio Communities.

-- Email the author at cgarcia@news-bulletin.com.