June 2, 2021 311 PM
PRESIDIO COUNTY – In last week’s meeting, Presidio County commissioners heard from a company that wants to bring a horse racetrack to the city of Presidio, and then agreed to declare an emergency disaster in response to the growing border crisis.
Jose Valdez from Wisdom Advisors Group came in front of the commissioners court to pitch the idea of a horse racing track right outside of Presidio. The current vision is to build either a ⅝ or ⅞ mile racing track on 20 acres of land just south of the Presidio airport. Wisdom Advisors Group would also construct a grandstand, a restaurant, a bar and 160 barns for the horses. The working title for the track is “Presidio Desert Downs” and would be modeled off of the Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico.
Valdez said he expects there to be around 40 or 50 racing days throughout the year. During “major stake” races, Valdez said he expects around 7,000 to 10,000 people to attend. For races with no stakes, the minimum number would be 1,000.
“To give you an idea, we would probably have 50 to 70 trainers out there, and those trainers require grooms and hot walkers. So just in the operation itself we’re running, you’ll have quite a bit of folks out there,” Valdez said.
Valdez said that the company wants to put the racetrack in Presidio as many of the employees are from the area.
Most of the questions from the commissioners revolved around whether the city of Presidio could handle this extra strain on its city infrastructure and public services. Valdez noted in his presentation that they would need to have EMS personnel on standby at the track on racing days.
Commissioner Brenda Bentley said, “I feel that, especially in our Presidio area, we have a definite shortage on ambulance availability, either because our ambulances break down or we don’t have enough to run those.” Right now the Presidio EMS service can only staff one ambulance at a time, according to EMS Director Malynda Richardson.
“Whatever we can do to support them we definitely will do that, even adding on our personal EMTs if we have to,” Valdez said. “The city administrator and the mayor said that they thought we’d be okay.”
The racetrack would need to get its water from the city as well. Ferguson and Newton told Valdez that the city doesn’t have the funds to extend the water lines, but that they could provide the water.
More than just support from the commissioners, Valdez needs approval from the county to allow betting at the racetrack – meaning there would have to be a countywide election, funded by the county itself. “We budget elections and there is an expense to doing that, so we have to weigh those options,” Commissioner Bentley said.
No action was taken by the commissioners on whether to approve this new racetrack.
The court next discussed declaring a local state of disaster in response to the growing number of undocumented immigrants attempting to illegaly cross the U.S.-Mexico border. (County Judge Cinderela Guevara had already declared a disaster, but failed to follow up on it.) If the commissioners agreed to reinstate the declaration, Guevara would take it to the governor’s office to urge him not to do away with Title 42, which has allowed the government to expel undcomented immigrants ostensibly in order to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“I have not heard from too many ranchers or people outside of the county as far as complaints about the crisis that they are facing,” Guevara said. “But all around us they are catching a lot of illegal aliens, and these are not people trying to come here for asylum, for the most part. They feel like they are dangerous criminals.”
Guevara said she worries about the costs the county faces in handling the deceased remains of undocumented immigrants found within the county. “What’s happening in Hudspeth County, I do know that they have 11 bodies in the morgue right now of illegal aliens that have died in their county, and now the county is responsible for the cost of the disinterment of those illegal aliens,” she said.
Commissioner Buddy Knight agreed, saying, “What bothers me worse than anything is that quite possibly there are bodies in the mountains of Presidio County right now that haven’t been found but will be, that we’ll be responsible for and that we can’t afford to do.” In fact, Guevara said that county employees recently came across two bodies in the county.
Guevara also mentioned that some of the county judges along the border are looking into whether they should sue the Biden Administration in order to recoup the costs of dealing with the crisis.
At the end of the meeting, the court passed the motion to declare the local disaster.