Presidio County Commissioners court talks water infrastructure, birth & death certificates

MARFA — At last weeks’ regular Commissioners Court meeting, Trey Gerfers, chair of the Presidio County Underground Water Conservation District, gave a brief update on the many water infrastructure projects that the county had applied to fund back in March, and offered an opportunity to apply for even more support from outside entities. 

“We were looking to update sewage in various parts of Marfa, and to bring water and wastewater to East Heights and Antelope Hills,” he explained. “There’s a ton of other projects, but those are probably the ones that people in Marfa want to know about.” 

County Judge Cinderela Guevara and Commissioner Brenda Bentley worked with Gerfers to compose a list of projects that would benefit the entire county. Guevara made a point to advocate for Colonia, a community outside Presidio city limits where residents still have to haul water for basic necessities like drinking and bathing. “That’s one of the last frontiers,” she said. 

In addition to the grant money that the county had already been seeking, Gerfers urged the commissioners to take advantage of a rare opportunity to apply for loans from state “revolving funds” dedicated to water infrastructure. The revolving funds are federal dollars apportioned to each state — mostly holdovers from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). 

The revolving funds are loans, but Guevara and Gerfers reminded the commissioners that because of Presidio County’s demographics, there was a high likelihood that 75% or more of the loans would eventually be forgiven. “We’re already coming in as an economically disadvantaged county, and we are on the border. That’s one of the reasons that they’re really looking at us.”

In addition to the positive prospects for the county’s water infrastructure, the commissioners also approved a proposal from the Presidio County clerk, Florcita Zubia, to take on the responsibility for writing and filing birth and death certificates from the Justice of the Peace for Precinct 1. “She has decided that it is best if all the records stay in her office, since she is here in the county seat and she does hold those records already,” Judge Guevara explained. 

Presidio County has two Justices of the Peace: Precinct 1, which covers Marfa and the northern half of the county, and Precinct 2, which covers Presidio and everything south of Elephant Rock on Highway 67. Previous JP-1 David Beebe had taken on the responsibility of being the electronic registrar for birth and death certificates — since the Justice of the Peace pronounces births and deaths — but Zubia and the new JP-1, Dina Jo Losoya Marquez, decided it would be easier for the County Clerk to serve as electronic registrar instead. 

“We all felt for the community that it was better served from the County Clerk’s office,” Marquez explained. 

The commissioners hoped that keeping all of the records in the same office would help their constituents be able to access their records more quickly and easily — especially for Presidio County families that hope to bury their loved ones in Mexico, a process that can take weeks. “I know a lot of families were very upset,” Zubia said. “Now, everything that’s processed through the state and as filed with the state we’ll be able to see [electronically] on our site.”

The commissioners thanked Zubia for her hard work. “Thank you for stepping up and seeking more responsibility,” Commissioner Eloy Aranda said. “This is really going to help our constituents.”