The Lower Rio Grade Mutual Domestic Water Association held their regular board meeting this morning in Berino. Among the items discussed was HB 185, introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Joseph Cervantes, which would merge the five mutual domestics--Desert Sands, Vado, Berino, Mesquite, and La Mesa, into one regional authority.
There appears to have been some confusion about the exact provisions in the bill inasmuch as a substitute bill was introduced last week, replacing the original bill. But the substitute bill was not published by the legislature until yesterday, several days after some citizens had complained about the wording of the first bill, thinking it was the bill before the House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee. The two bills were not identical, and the original one contained language that empowered the proposed authority more than the substitute bill.
The New Mexico Municipal League worked with the sponsors of the bill, and it's language was altered. As citizens in the South Mesilla Valley became aware of the language of the substitute bill, opposition to it appears to have declined. Only one person present at the meeting this morning, Ms. Natalicia Mercado, expressed reservations against the bill. She indicated she was frustrated by difficulties in finding out whether the existing mutual domestic was running in the red or in the black and expressed her concern that the same people running the mutuals would be running the new authority. Mr. Martin Lopez and Mr. Martin Nieto, who helped lobby for the bill, answered a number of questions, reiterating that the only major change in the legal status of the five mutual domestics would be the economies of scale realized by the merger and the ability to use revenue bonds for improvements to the system.
Mr. Mitch Boyer, of Vado, indicated he felt more could have been done by the association to solicit "buy-in for the bill" and suggested the board of the new entity might build in more oversight. Mr. Manny Garcia stated he felt many citizens "didn't know about 185."
If the bill clears the House of Representatives it will move to the Senate. Should it pass into law new governance regulations will be created, including provisions for citizen input.