FENCE LAKE, N.M. (KRQE) – “Risks for people who are out there traveling and liability for the department of transportation if those roads aren’t cleared and people are out there on them… it’s just not safe,” said Fence Lake resident, Kathleen Gibson. Those who call the rural town home say they travel to and from neighboring cities like Grants, Gallup, and Albuquerque to shop, go to school and go to doctor’s appointments.
“A few people who are traveling to Albuquerque for cancer treatments, we have some with other issues that have to be seen on a regular basis, at least once a week they are driving the roads. They haven’t officially told us who would cover 117. We have heard rumors it would be Grants,” said Kerri Stumbaugh.
NMDOT’s consideration to cancel its Fence Lake patrol in district six, near Gallup, comes down to staffing and efficiency after the department has been unable to fill three out of the five budgeted positions available for the patrol. NMDOT says closing the service would help improve efficiency when it comes to road maintenance and spending.
While residents express their concerns the DOT says roads in Fence Lake will still be taken care of making sure roads there are safe and plowed during winter. A potential solution to the closure would be to have current Fence Lake patrol workers be part of neighboring patrols like Ramah and Quemado, but some residents question how that would go. “The Ramah and Quemado patrols just won’t be able to take care of that because they are going to be adding a lot of miles to their area and their priorities are on some of the other highways,” Gibson said.
Hoping to prevent the cancellation, Fence Lake residents are collecting signatures to send to NMDOT. While NMDOT is currently considering the cancellation, it says, right now there are no immediate plans to end the area’s service and would first have to be approved by executive staff.