Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The Rundown: More Funding for Fire Depts., NM Supreme Court Ruling and Hacked EBT Cards


State Fire Marshal’s Office Announces $75 Million for Local Departments

The New Mexico State Fire Marshal’s office announced that $75 million from the state’s fire fund will be distributed to departments around the state.

Last year, 99 municipalities in New Mexico received $29,395,413 and 257 county stations received $40,765,656.

A total of $75,814,631 was distributed for fiscal year 2024 - a 5.6% increase over the fiscal year 2023 distribution of $71,765,073.

The New Mexico Fire fund is funded through a small portion of insurance premiums.

“The State Fire Marshal’s office is pleased to provide this vital funding to departments large and small across the state. I know that a well-funded and well-trained department is important for everyone’s safety and with this funding, we’re supporting operations, equipment and training at a record level,” said State Fire Marshal Randy Varela.

Departments must submit applications before August 31.

Luján, Heinrich Introduce Legislation to Better Honor National Heroes at Santa Fe National Cemetery

Senators Ben Ray Luján and Martin Heinrich introduced the New Mexico Veteran Burial Dignity and Honor Act that would repeal a 1999 provision that allowed for the use of flat gravestones at the Santa Fe National Cemetery and replace the flat markers with upright markers.

“While flat markers do not lessen the stature of a national cemetery, upright gravestones serve as a more fitting tribute and will provide a uniform look throughout the Cemetery.” A statement from Lujan’s office said.

In 1999, the Cemetery began using flat grave markers instead of the traditional upright grave markers for any veterans laid to rest along the eastern side of the cemetery.

“New Mexico has a proud legacy of service and it’s our duty to honor and commemorate our veterans and their families,” said Senator Luján.

"New Mexico's fallen heroes deserve our full respect and honor. That includes a final resting place with the traditional, upright grave markers that are synonymous with all of our national cemeteries—from Arlington to Santa Fe,” said Senator Heinrich.

Supreme Court Resolves Dispute Over Road Across Private Land for Access to Solar Energy Farm

The state Supreme Court today ruled that the public may cross a rancher’s private property on a road in Quay County under a “prescriptive easement” established by decades of uninterrupted travel on the roadway.

The court’s unanimous opinion resolved a dispute over the right to use a 6-mile-long road – known as Quay Road AI – to access land owned by the state and several other ranchers, including property leased for a solar energy farm near Tucumcari.

The dispute arose after McFarland Land & Cattle Company sought to stop a solar energy developer, Caprock Solar 1, LLC, from using a “low water crossing” over an arroyo on its property to reach land the company leased from a neighboring rancher to build and operate a solar array.

“The law of public prescriptive easements in New Mexico does not require a showing of a minimum amount of use or number of users, as it is the public character of the road that guides a fact finder’s determination of a public prescriptive easement,” the Court wrote in an opinion by Justice David K. Thomson.

The state Court of Appeals reversed the district court, finding that there was not enough evidence of general public use of the road and that travel by neighboring ranchers and those granted permission to cross the land did not constitute use by the general public.

The Supreme Court overturned the Court of Appeals decision and affirmed the district court’s original judgment in the case.

The justices concluded that the “Court of Appeals erred in requiring the County and Defendants to prove a minimum amount of use by the public in establishing their public prescriptive easement claim and erred in holding that evidence of neighbor or invitee use can never be considered to prove public use.”

The court determined there was sufficient evidence to support the district court’s finding of a prescriptive easement for public use of the roadway. The evidence, the justices explained, established that the road had a “public character,” including that the road appeared on Quay County road maps since 1956, the county performed maintenance on it and the arroyo crossing, and a local title company identified it as a public road.

SNAP Benefit EBT Cards Hacked in Los Lunas

New Mexico Human Services Department (HSD) identified 488 SNAP households that are potential victims of EBT fraud. The department recently received reports of missing benefits from hundreds of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) customers who shopped at the Smith's Food and Drug located at 2850 N. Main in Los Lunas, N.M. The store has been informed.

“It’s unconscionable that anyone would steal food out of the mouths of the most vulnerable New Mexicans,” said Kari Armijo, Acting Cabinet Secretary for HSD.

HSD learned that a card skimmer was discovered on June 22, at the Smiths at 2850 N. Main in Los Lunas, NM. The skimmer was placed at a self-service kiosk on May 25. All 488 New Mexico households had their EBT cards skimmed at this self-service kiosk. Skimming is the term used to describe devices being put on card readers to steal your information.

HSD is calling all SNAP customers in Los Lunas whose cards were compromised to notify them of the theft and informing local EBT vendors of this potential risk. The agency is working with all affected customers to restore their SNAP benefits and advising them to change their PIN. SNAP customers will receive restored benefits no later than 10 days from the date the theft has been verified.

New Mexico residents who receive SNAP benefits need to be aware and monitor their benefits and if they believe benefits have been stolen due to card skimming, cloning or phishing should contact HSD. Benefits dating back to October 2022 can be replaced. SNAP customers must contact HSD 30 days from the day they suspect theft of their benefits.


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