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Chaves County makes disaster declaration

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Lisa Dunlap Photo The county declaration ensures that resources can be directed to responding to and recovering from the coronavirus. Public Services Director Bill Williams says it also is meant to ensure that the county will receive federal reimbursement of allowed costs.

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Chaves County also has issued an emergency declaration of a “public disaster” related to the coronavirus, in keeping with the requirements of the state government.

The Roswell City Council voted Thursday on its own separate declaration, while Chaves County issued its proclamation Wednesday, signed by Will Cavin, chairman of the Chaves County Board of Commissioners.

The declaration enables the county, as well as all the cities and towns contained within it, to be eligible for federal reimbursement for costs related to the COVID-19 situation, said Public Services Director Bill Williams.

It also directs that its resources should go toward efforts to “respond to and recover from the outbreak” and authorizes the utilization of county resources to aid affected municipalities.

Williams said that the full Board of Commissioners is expected to ratify the declaration at a future meeting.

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The State of New Mexico has required all counties to make the emergency declarations. Williams said that the proclamations are intended to be in place within 30 days of the national emergency declaration signed by President Donald Trump on March 13. The state issued its declaration of a public health emergency on March 11.

Williams said the city of Roswell — as well as all other municipal entities with the county — are covered by the county proclamation, but that both the county and city agreed that Roswell should issue its own declaration.

“Neither of us want to take a chance that an unknown technicality might reduce their opportunities to get reimbursements to help our citizens,” said Williams.

He said that the county already has started tracking costs associated with COVID-19 illnesses and its impacts, although it is not clear at this time what expenses might be reimbursed.

He said he is aware of increased costs related to the Sheriff’s Office, because its deputies are assisting the Roswell Police Department at this time. There are also costs associated with employees working remotely and with employee leave, as some staff take time off work to care for themselves or their families.

In recent years, the county has issued two other disaster proclamations, one in January 2016 for Winter Storm Goliath and another in March 2019 for the tornadoes and wind storms that affected the region.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.