The Española City Council voted at its Nov. 10 meeting to table an ordinance implementing new fire inspection and false alarm fees. The fees were designed to generate additional revenue for the department and encourage those with constant false alarms to address the underlying cause of those alarms.
However, Councilor John Ramon Vigil initially took issue with one specific part of the suggested ordinance. In the section detailing the appeals process for those who disagree with charges levied against them, the ordinance mandated that a member of the firefighter’s union sit on the appeal board.
“I’m really concerned with having a union making decisions on official action of the city,” Vigil said. Fire Chief Ron Padilla and Planning and Land Use Director Richard Hubler explained that the inclusion of the union member was only to try to represent as many interests as possible on the appeals board, with the perspective of an on-the-ground firefighter as represented by the union being of considerable weight.
“Why can’t we just refer to a member of the fire department staff?” Vigil said. “I just don’t understand how you can put a union in there to make official actions on behalf of a municipal government. I understand if they’re working in their official capacity as a staff member but what they do in the union is on their time.”
Padilla conceded that it didn’t have to necessarily be a union member, and Hubler said the reasoning behind that language was to ensure it was a working firefighter and not an administrative member like a chief.
Councilor Peggy Sue Martinez joined in Vigil’s concern, saying that union business should never be conducted on the city’s time. She moved to table the ordinance until the language could be adjusted and the ordinance could be re-advertised for the required 30 days, leaving it up for a vote at the Dec. 8 city council meeting.
The motion passed with Councilors Peggy Sue Martinez, Dee Dee Valdez, John Ramon Vigil and Denise Benavidez voting in favor, and Councilors John Ricci, Manny Martinez and Justin Salazar-Torres voting against.