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County selects McCutcheon as Senate recommendation

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For the Daily Press

The Eddy County Commission has selected Carlsbad area rancher Steven McCutcheon II as the candidate to be submitted for the governor’s consideration to be the successor for Sen. Gay Kernan’s District 42 Senate seat.

Kernan retired on Aug. 1. The other candidates included former Eddy County Commissioner John S. “Jack” Volpato Jr. and New Mexico State Rep. Larry R. Scott of Hobbs.

The Eddy County Bureau of Elections confirmed all three candidates are registered voters residing in Senate District 42. After reviewing the candidates’ submitted materials and listening to them speak at the meeting, the commission selected McCutcheon, also a former county commissioner, to submit to the governor. The candidate appointed to the District 42 seat by the governor will face re-election in 2024.

The commission focused on the Carlsbad Southeast Loop Project several times throughout the meeting. Eddy County requested and received $8 million in state road funding from the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) to complete the final phase of the project.

The scope for this funding is to plan, design, acquire rights of way, and construct the Southeast Loop Project from the intersection of U.S. 285 and N.M. 31 across the Pecos River to Refinery Road (CR 605), then north to U.S. 62/180.

The commission also approved a $1.5 million capital budget adjustment request for the project by Eddy County Public Works Projects Director Jason Burns. The project has been awarded in multiple phases and areas consecutively. It is now planned to progress rapidly and is expected to be substantially completed and open for use in the 2023-24 fiscal year. The $1.5 million will be used for additional excavation, rock excavation, hauling and paving.

Burns also gave an update that Phase III of the Southeast Loop Project is going well. Crews are currently placing a recycled base and continuing to pave next week. Phase IV of the project will start next week, but the road will remain closed for a couple reasons, said Burns.

The NMDOT is also starting an intersection project at 605 and 62/180, which is another reason the road will be closed through the completion of their project. Burns also shared that county crews will be working on erosion control as one of their winter projects.

The commission approved the purchase of a Tek84 Intercept Body Scanner for the Eddy County Detention Center. The $165,000 system will detect metallic and non-metallic threats concealed under clothing and within body cavities such as weapons, drugs, cell phones, and other contraband and will increase safety for the Eddy County Detention Center staff and detainees. The funds for the purchase came from the Detention Center’s inmate concession fund and not from the county’s general fund.

Eddy County Fire and Rescue reported they had applied for and received a $12,000 grant from ConocoPhillips. The money will be used to purchase McGrath MAC Video Laryngoscopes and battery packs. The equipment will be used to video airways for cardiac and airway-compromised patients in emergency situations.

After a closed-door session, the Commission approved changing the Finance Director’s starting pay scale from $135,824 to $165,464, depending on experience.

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