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Eddy County leaders to set date for oil and gas town hall meeting

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Veronica McCrory, left, poses with District 3 Eddy County Commissioner Larry Wood during Tuesday’s meeting in Carlsbad. She was presented a service award for her five years of work in the facilities department. (Mike Smith Photo)

CARLSBAD — Eddy County leaders are looking at a date for a possible town hall meeting to talk about an ongoing audit of oil and gas companies in the county.

Eddy County Manager Rick Rudometkin told the Eddy County Commission Tuesday that Dec. 14 is a possible day for people to get more information and ask questions about the audit.

Rudometkin said the meeting could be held in Artesia on the evening of Dec. 14.

The audit has been going on for more than a year, and so far, county officials said $302,000 in back taxes has been collected.

District 2 Commissioner Jon Henry said he has been getting questions from people about the audit.

“Let’s have some sort of meeting and make sure we’re all in the same room,” he said.

Henry added there has also been some confusion on the money that has been collected.

“Let’s all get on the same page,” he said. “Let’s get ahead of this.”

County Assessor Gemma Ferguson said she hasn’t heard anything from the public on the audit, which was brought about by her predecessor, Karen Robinson, nearly five years ago.

Robinson filed a lawsuit against commissioners during that timeframe after they said no to her efforts to contact a company to conduct the audit. A district court ruled in her favor, commissioners filed an appeal and two years ago, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled in Robinson’s favor.

The audit has been going on for more than a year as the county is looking to get tax money on oil and gas equipment.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Ferguson asked if she could get the questions ahead of time.

District 1 Commissioner James Walterscheid wasn’t very enthused about the meeting.

“I’m against a town hall,” he said. “It’s too much of a free-for-all.”

Walterscheid said if oil and gas companies have concerns, they should, “call the assessor.”

“If you owe it, you pay it,” Walterscheid said of the taxes.

District 5 Commissioner Susan Crockett said, “our goal for the county is to be transparent.”

“The questions I’m getting are confusion questions,” Henry said.

Ferguson said Eddy County isn’t unique when it comes an oil and gas audit. She added other counties in New Mexico are doing the same thing.

Rudometkin said, “the county will run the meeting (and) give equal time to everybody.”

Rudometkin suggested that the meeting be held at the brand new Artesia Public Schools Administration and Training Center.

Once the discussion ended, the County Commission approved to hold the town hall. The details are expected to be worked out by their next meeting on Dec. 5.

The commission also approved the creation of administrative assistant for the county fire services department and they also approved a wish from the Cottonwood Volunteer Fire Department to use $1.5 million in fire excise money to complete their brand new fire station.

General assignment reporter Mike Smith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 307, or at sports2@rdrnews.com.