Fence Lake residents concerned about possible closure of NMDOT patrols

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FENCE LAKE, NM (KRQE) – “Risk to people traveling and liability to the Department of Transportation if these roads are not cleared and people are 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 nearby towns like Grants, Gallup and Albuquerque for shopping, school and doctor’s appointments.

“A few people who go to Albuquerque for cancer treatments, we have others with other issues that need to be seen regularly, at least once a week, they drive on the roads. They didn’t officially tell us who would be covering 117, we heard rumors it would be Grants,” Kerri Stumbaugh said.

NMDOT’s intention to cancel its Fence Lake patrol in District Six, near Gallup, comes down to staffing and efficiency after the department was unable to staff three of five budgeted positions available for the patrol. NMDOT says shutting down the service would help improve efficiency in road maintenance and spending.

As residents raise concerns, the DOT says Fence Lake Roads will still be supported to ensure the roads are safe and clear of snow during the winter. A potential solution to the closure would be for current Fence Lake patrollers to be part of neighboring patrols like Ramah and Quemado, but some residents wonder how that would go. “The Ramah and Quemado patrols just won’t be able to deal with that because they’re going to add a lot of miles to their area and their priorities are on some of the other highways,” Gibson said.

Hoping to prevent the cancellation, residents of Fence Lake are collecting signatures to send to the NMDOT. While the NMDOT is currently considering cancellation, he said, there are currently no immediate plans to end service to the region and would need to be approved by executive staff first.

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