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Road closure requests getting opposition; Four applications are for area disputed last year

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People concerned about possible county road changes have three opportunities to let the county know, says Robert Corn, chairman of the Chaves County Board of Commissioners, right. He is shown with Commissioner Will Cavin during an October meeting regarding public land planning. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

The first hearing about possible county road closures has not occurred, but a couple of people already have lined up to let county commissioners know that they are not happy about some of the property owners’ submitted requests.

“I live off of Picacho Road and I have seen a couple of things to close some of the road, and, if they do, it is going to land-lock some of us,” said Richard Joy of Flying H, New Mexico. “And I am against it.”

Joy was one of three people, two expressing concern, to address the Chaves County Board of Commissioners during its Thursday meeting about some of the 16 road change requests to be considered this year. This year, all requests are for road vacations, or turning over of county roads to private property owners.

Chair Robert Corn told the speakers that they should stay in contact with county and that they will have three opportunities to state their concerns.

Chaves County Public Works Director Bill Williams later said that the county has received notification of opposition to three requests already.

Some of the concern is related to what happened last year, when the appointed freeholders and the Chaves County Board of Commissioners approved a rancher’s request to close a 5-mile portion of Felix Canyon Road through his property. Felix Canyon Road is near Picacho Road and the Flying H community.

That decision upset many hunters and outdoor enthusiasts, some of whom gathered hundreds of signatures on petitions and expressed their anger at public meetings to dispute the closure of what they described as an important conduit to public lands.

A few state law enforcement officials also contended that the road provided a needed route during emergencies.

The rancher and his family, the Casabonnes, won their request by saying that the road closure only diverted rather than blocked traffic and was needed to prevent increased acts of trespassing and vandalism in recent years.

This year, four of the applications requesting that vacating of roads by the county are in the same general area as the disputed road from last year, Williams said.

As one of the first steps in the road change process, the commissioner approved the citizens who will serve as freeholders. They make the first review of the road applications and the first inspections of the roads and then present their recommendations to commissioners.

The freeholders are Steven Chaves of Graves Road, Travis Johnson of North Washington Avenue and Alan Theobald of Gallina Road. The alternate is Jim Gill of Xanadu Place.

The public can submit comments to the county or freeholders now and signs soon will be posted on roads involved in the applications.

The freeholders are scheduled to begin inspecting roads March 5 and to present their recommendations to commissioners by March 15.

The first public commission meeting to consider the applications and freeholders’ decisions is planned for April 19, where the public can comment. Commissioners will then view the roads, while the public is able to view them at the same time. Commissioners can make a decision after those visits or vote at a May 17 meeting.

This year, nine of the applications for vacating roads are from the county and its Road Department.

“Most of those were essentially driveways and stuff off of county roads or state roads that we need to clean up,” Williams said. “We don’t need to maintain those.”

Other road closure requests from county residents include a mile portion of Caddo Road in Dexter that passes near a facility owned by Terry Bogle that is used for children with special needs and about 100 feet of Chickasaw Road that the BNSF Railway Co. wants to close as part of its plan to shut down a railroad crossing.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.