Court could have to wait until the end of Barham's term

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

County officials are still awaiting word from the state on whether it is legal to consolidate Justice of the Peace precincts in Sandia and Orange Grove, now that Pct. 3 is vacant with Elois Barham's resignation.

County Judge L. Arnoldo Saenz said this issue will be discussed at Friday's commissioner's meeting.

"Right now, the state is still finishing up their work on the last election, so we're awaiting word from them to see if consolidation will be an option," he said. "In the end, the decision will be up to the commissioners."

The court was told during its last meeting they could appoint an individual to fill in as Pct. 3 JP until an election could be held in November, but consolidation is an option.

"We would have to hear from the Advisory System up in Austin first, before we could make a decision on consolidation," Commissioner Wally Alanis said.

His county precinct covers both JP jurisdictions.

"We can't close it at will. There has been some talk about consolidation, but after speaking to the county clerk, the position must be filled. Since she (Barham) was elected to a four-year term, and there are still three years left, we need to finish out that term," Alanis said.

After the term is completed, he said, the court could then consider consolidation.

According to the 2007 budget, Barham's office is estimated to bring in $10,300 in fines and fees to the general fund and costs $69,894 to operate.

Pct. 5 JP Luz Paiz is estimated to bring in $120,300 in fees and fines to the general fund this year.

Paiz's office will cost the county $115,996.

County officials said in the past that the purpose of the JP's office is not to make money, but to provide a service to the public.