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Santa Teresa incorporation hinges on group proving Sunland Park cannot provide services

A district court in New Mexico has ruled in favor of The Provisional Government of Santa Teresa, the group trying to incorporate Santa Teresa so the community can have its own government and city services.

“We decided to go ahead and control our destiny and that started the process,” Dr. Mary Gonzalez, the president of the PGOST, said.

In late 2015, Dona Ana County Commissioners voted against allowing Santa Teresa residents to move forward with plans to form their own government. Commissioners argued residents did not follow the proper legal requirements for incorporation. The move came as the City of Sunland Park was attempting to annex Santa Teresa.

Tuesday, ABC-7 learned the ruling means Santa Teresa residents can move forward with plans for incorporation, but only if they can prove, within the next four months, that Sunland Park cannot provide municipal services for their community. “If the provisional government meets its burden of proof, then Santa Teresa cannot be annexed by Sunland Park,” the court ruling states.

“We can provide services better and faster (services) and that means we can control our destiny and we can become our own city and that’s what we always wanted,” Dr. Gonzalez said.

Sunland Park Mayor Javier Perea told ABC-7 his city plans to appeal the decision. “They’re claiming we can’t provide any of the services, but in reality, we already do provide some of those services,” Perea said.

Perea believes the court’s ruling needs several clarifications. He said Sunland Park currently provides aid for the volunteer fire department in Santa Teresa and helps with water, emergency, and police services. “The current water infrastructure in place is through a joint utility authority we have formed with the county,” Perea said, “That’s about $80 million of our assets and $20 million of the county’s.”

Dona Ana County Attorney Nelson Goodin questioned the district court’s decision. “The court may have misapprehended the facts, and thus, misapplied or misinterpreted the law in reaching its decision,” Goodin told ABC-7, “The county is still studying the court’s decision in view of the actual facts and the applicable law.”

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