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City Budget Includes Film Funding as a Priority

Tamalewood coming to Raton?

by Sharon Niederman RATON — At the May 24, 2021 regular meeting of the Colfax County Commission, the FY2021-22 budget passed – but not unanimously. While Commission Chairman Bobby LeDoux and Commissioner Roy Fernandez voted yes on the $17,470,177 balanced budget that will be sent to Department of Finance and Administration for approval, Commissioner Bret Wier dissented after his proposal to add $100,000 to avoid two fulltime layoffs was dismissed.

“I think we discussed this last week,” said LeDoux. A lengthy and detailed debate about whether to keep the budget balanced and trigger layoffs or to withdraw the money from county reserves to cover salary costs took place at the last meeting.

The budget passed Monday made a $6000 adjustment from excess funds, however, to pay for vector control and hiring a seasonal temporary employee, a change permitted because it affects health and safety.

Waste Wood to Diesel – Sangre de Cristo Initiative Presented Forester Mike Berry of the Sangre de Cristo Initiative presented an alternative energy plan to collect waste or slash wood and “cook” it in a closed non-polluting plant to transform it into a “liquid diesel” product. The plan would work in conjunction with Western Woods and the proposed Cimarron sawmill. Berry suggested a five megawatt plant in Cimarron or the reconditioning of the defunct Raton power plant to use the product. “Our goal is to save our forests, save our watershed, and put people to work,” he said.

Mora has received Natural Resources Conservation Service grants for the project, and Springer Electric Co-op will use five megawatts of the generated power, he said. The EPA has approved the process in California.

He is seeking a $50,000 Environmental Department grant to assimilate research information already accumulated on the feasibility of what would ultimately be a $15 million plant – and to create an “investor quality” proposal. While he did not request a match or any funds from the county commission, he requested the county’s support for the grant. No action was taken. The commission will review the grant when it is complete.

Tamalewood Coming to Raton? Two representatives of El Raton Media Works/El Raton Studios, LLC, Elizabeth Holloway and Vaughn Vialpando, presented a plan to “put Colfax County on the map” of New Mexico’s booming film industry (subsidized by $100,000 million in tax credits). While emphasizing the need for additional movie studios in the region, they focused on their first project: the renovation of the abandoned WPA-era Kearny School as a teaching and production facility offering advanced film technology such as used in “The Mandalorian.”

They are requesting the donation of Kearny School for economic development as well as making a $5000 funding request from the City Commission to plan and present summer events.

Affiliating with Santa Fe Community College and with the support and counsel of Wally Wallace, Trinidad’s economic development director; Jessica Barfield, Raton’s former economic development director; film director Ann Theis and husband Jose Lopez, as well as lead investor Kayvan Khalatbari, the team explained their goals of workforce development and attracting Raton talent back to town as they offer needed film support and training in culinary arts, carpentry, and other skills that would lead to film industry jobs.

Khalatbari is the moving force behind the Ramel Family Farms’ adaptation of the Armex building and acreage for a greenhouse. That project recently was awarded $700,000 in state funds. Holloway and Vialpando requested and were assured of a letter of support from the county commission for a grant from the Economic Development Authority for their Kearny School project.

County vaccination at 57%.

Colfax County Emergency Services Manager Tom Vigil reported vaccination of 12-16 year olds has begun, with 2000 vaccines given at the Convention Center clinic. The county is averaging about one positive COVID case per day, leaving it on track to remain in the Turquoise zone. The county is following CDC, state-endorsed COVID-safe guidelines. He will be meeting with county manager Mary Lou Kern to plan a soft re-opening of the county building.

Kern reported she is working on creating cannabis ordinances she anticipates will be complete by Aug.-Sept.


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