Emotions ran high Wednesday night at a meeting held to set the record straight on details about the implications of possible disincorporation of Sunland Park.


Petitioners to disincorporate the 34-year-old city of more than 15,000 say they have the 1,133 signatures needed to force a vote in Sunland Park. on the issue and will file with the county clerk’s office in Las Cruces by Monday.


County manager Julia Brown and county attorney Nelson Goodin said while the county took no position on the matter, they did want to provide information on the procedures and ramifications of the issue since they had noticed some misleading information elsewhere.


The meeting was held at the request of Commissioner Dr. David Garcia.


As the crowd, estimated at around 200, heard the answers, it was clear sentiment of those attending was for saving Sunland Park as an entity.


Once the petition is turned in at the Clerk’s office, he has 10 days in which to verify that enough legal signatures of registered city voters are on it. Then the county commissioners have 10 days in which to meet and call for a special election run by the county. The vote must be no sooner than 50 days and no more than 60 from four weeks of the election being advertised.


The clerk has 10 days to certify the election. A simple majority of those who vote will decide if Sunland Park ceases to exist.


The county would take over the assets of the city, all city employees would be dismissed, including police and firemen, road department and all city services.


The county would appoint an administrator to use available funds and/or sell other assets (which includes parks, buildings, equipment, etc.) to pay the city’s debts. If more money is left over, it would be distributed to local schools within the city, If there isn’t enough, the citizens of the former city would face a special tax to pay those debts.


The county would take over police and fire protection. The county has few paid full-time firemen. Sunland Park would be covered by the Santa Teresa and La Union volunteer departments. The sheriff’s department would cover Sunland Park but the city’s former police officers would not be hired without applying for any openings that might exist. But the sheriff, who also attended, said he did not have enough officers to provide adequate service.


Sheriff Enrique “Kiki” Vigil said that was due to Dona Ana County officers  being paid low salaries. At that point the county attorney challenged the sheriff to stop talking, despite much of the crowd calling for officials to allow the sheriff to continue speaking.


Several times during the meeting, the county attorney noted New Mexico State Police and Sunland Park officers were present and could be asked to remove unruly spectators.


CRRUA, which provides some services, including water, sewer and garbage, is a partnership between the county and the city, might or might not exist if the city partner is dissolved.


And water bills might increase. Sunland Park residents pay a lower fee to CRRUA than those living in the unincorporated areas of the county. It is could be the same with the sales tax rate as well as property taxes.


It prompted a lot of emotion and the county officials quickly left once the official part of the meeting was over. Sunland Park mayor Javier Perea and Sheriff Vigil remained for a few minutes to answer additional questions.