DEMING, N.M. (KRQE) – Despite New Mexico earning record-breaking revenue from the oil and gas industry, the state’s Environment Department says it’s closing a field office because it doesn’t have enough funding. To do in-person business, residents will have to go to the Silver City field office starting in October.
“The closure of the Deming field office was necessitated by operating budget constraints,” the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) said in a press release. “NMED is evaluating the closure or consolidation of additional field offices due to the lack of appropriated funding for building leases.”
The department says the Deming office had charge over the regulation of about 382 entities and also served as a hub for the community to receive permits, restaurant inspections, and the like. The field offices “are anchors in communities,” Environment Department Secretary James Kenney told KRQE News 13.
New Mexico’s Environment Department did get a boost in overall funding this year from state lawmakers. But Kenney says the department has limits on how it can use some of its funding. That’s left them scrambling to try to find money for rent.
“Most of our field offices, actually most of the Environment Department, is not in a state building,” Kenney says. “We lease real estate, and our real estate costs have gone up . . . we’re making some tough decisions.”
Kenney says he’s hopeful this is the only office they have to close this year. This isn’t the first time the department closed an office. They closed the Socorro field office several years ago.
Now, without a physical location in Deming, Kenney says residents might have a harder time getting help and services from the department when the nearest field office is a town over.
“It’s not lost on us that getting in your car and driving from Deming to Silver City or even Las Cruces – that’s an hour one way,” Kenney says. “To get there, conduct business, and then make it back and that’s an inconvenience. And we know that which is why we’re really focused on increasing our online transactions.”
The department does accept online transactions for things like paying permit fees. But online services can’t replace everything done at a field office.
“The point is that the business owners have less access to us. And then on top of that, if there’s any complaints or issues that we need to be responsive to in that community, we also have to now drive an hour where we didn’t have to do that before,” Kenney says.
For Deming residents, the nearest location will soon be the Silver City office at 3082 32nd Street Bypass, Suite D. And despite shutting down the field office, Kenney reaffirms the department’s commitment to the community: “We’re still here. We’re still going to be in the community. We are out every day, assuring compliance and working with communities. So don’t hesitate to call.”