City Council selects interim fire chief

By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer

Portales has selected an interim fire chief to step up when the current chief retires.

At the City Council meeting Tuesday, City Manager Tom Howell announced his plans to appoint Portales Battalion Chief and Emergency Medical Services Director Gary Nuckols to serve as interim chief after the Nov. 27 retirement of Chief John Bridges.

Nuckols has served with the Portales Fire Department for 12 years.

“I expect business as usual at the fire department,” he said.

As interim chief, Nuckols said his goals would include working to have all fire department personnel certified in advanced life support, bringing them up from the Emergency Medical Technician level to paramedic level.

“We’ve been working on that a long time,” he said.

Nuckols estimated that 75 to 80 percent of department personnel already have the certification. He expects six more EMTs to finish the paramedic training program early next summer.

Also, Nuckols would like to hire and retain good staff members, have more people certified in hazardous material response and, over the long term, get a substation in another part of town.

In another matter, the council approved providing about $60,700 in economic development tax revenues to Sunland Inc. to help cover unexpected costs of connecting the peanut processing plant to the city sewer system.

The vote was unanimous with Councilors Alfred Bachicha and Ron Jackson absent.

The city already provided $52,000 for Sunland to install the sewer line. The company and the state also helped foot the expected $245,000 bill.

However, Howell said the line had to be placed deeper than expected, costing about $112,800 more than the anticipated price.

He said Sunland would pay the part of the overage not covered by the economic development funds.

Community Affairs Coordinator Nicole Wilkening said the city would see a return of the money awarded to Sunland — a total of about $112,700 — within five years through construction and retail gross receipts taxes and turnover of money in the community.

On another item, the council approved a resolution calling for municipal elections March 2.

The mayor and municipal judge positions are up for election, as are council seats held by Antonio Salguero, Robert De Los Santos, Ron Jackson and Shawn Watson.

The filing date for candidates is Jan. 5, and early voting is Feb. 10-26.

Councilors also were told the city’s 2007-2008 audit report showed no serious problems.