Truth or Consequences’s water lines are breaking at an escalating pace

by Kathleen Sloan | March 9, 2021
5 min read
The site of last night's water-main break on Veater Street, looking south toward Radium Street. Photograph by Diana Tittle

In the last five weeks the City of Truth or Consequences’s water system has experienced six water-main breaks, including one that occurred just last night on Veater Street between Iron and Radium Streets.

The frequency of the breaks has escalated over the last 14 months, during which, all told, there were 18 water-main-break events in town and/or in Williamsburg, whose water lines are owned by T or C. Some events were actually clusters of breaks, seemingly occurring in a domino effect.

Deputy Chief of Police Erica Baker has posted alerts about water-main breaks on the city’s Facebook page since she became public information officer in December 2019. These notices are the only documentation available of the breaks. They may not, however, record every break that has taken place in the last 14 months, nor do they usually provide detailed accounts.

The Sierra County Sun submitted on Jan. 11 an Inspection of Public Records Act request, asking for documents recording the breaks, funds used to pay for repairs and the amount of water lost during the events. “These documents do not exist,” was the city’s response on Jan. 26.

The inconvenience and possible health consequences suffered by residents left without water for hours are also incalculable.


March 8, 2021: water-main break on Veater Street between Iron and Radium Streets, affecting Williamsburg

March 3, 2021: water-main break on Doris Lane in Williamsburg

Feb. 23, 2021: several water-main breaks in southwest T or C and Williamsburg on South Broadway Avenue at Good 2 Go and Southwest Signs and at the intersections of Cook and Hyde Streets and Cook Street and Henson Avenue

Feb. 17, 2021: water repairs at the intersections of Cook Street and Hyde Street and Cook Street and Belle Street

Feb. 9, 2021: water-main break affecting Parkway Drive, Kopra Street, Marie Street; also affecting the high school and middle school

Feb. 3, 2021: water-main break, 8th and Corbett Streets; second break at unnamed location

Jan. 10, 2021: water-main break, Zinc and Simpson Streets

Jan. 7, 2021: water-main break, 3rd Street between Gold and Silver Streets

Oct. 19, 2020: water department upgrades at the intersection of Riverside Drive and Charlie’s Lane, affecting the Rodeo Arena area

Sept. 1, 2020: water-main break on Veater

Sept. 1, 2020: water-main break, Mercury Street between Simpson and Marshall Streets

Aug. 13, 2020: several water-main breaks on Lincoln Avenue, Tungsten Street, Pershing Street, Austin Avenue, Foch Street, Aluminum Street, Morgan Street and Corona Street, affecting downtown and southwest T or C

Aug. 4, 2020: water-main break, Riverside Drive between Arrowhead Road and Rainbow Street

June 26, 2020: water-main break, 600 block of North Pershing Street

May 30, 2020:  two large water leaks, location unnamed, and “mechanical issues with the pumping system”

March 10, 2020: water-main break, intersection of Veater and Mercury 

Jan. 28, 2020: water-main breaks, Foch Street, Pershing Street, Austin Avenue, Post Street and Marr Avenue


PIO Baker’s notices of water-main breaks specify about 24 locations. Nine were near or on Veater Street in southwest T or C or Williamsburg.

The area with the second most breaks was downtown T or C, with five water-main breaks. Three of them occurred Aug. 13, 2020.

The area with the third most breaks was east T or C, with four water-main breaks off of or on 3rd Street and Riverside Drive. 8th and Corbett also experienced a water-main break.

The area with the fourth most breaks was west T or C. It experienced three water-main break events at Cook Street, Morgan Street and Hyde Street. Various side streets were also listed as among the affected locations.

North-central T or C also experienced three water-main break events, with Parkway Street, Kopra Street, Marie Street, Corona Street and North Pershing Street listed as the affected locations.

Over the past 14 months, the average time between breaks has been about 22 days. In the last five weeks, the average time between breaks has been about six days.


T or C’s budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2020, and ending June 30, 2021, put aside $33,125 for emergency repairs. Labor has also been budgeted: $40,000 for “temporary positions” at $12 an hour for outside workers, $20,000 for salaried workers’ overtime and $9,000 for salaried workers to “stand by.” Another $45,000 was budgeted to fix the roads torn up during water line repairs. The total figure budgeted for line repairs, road repairs and labor is $147,125.

The city may have already run through its “emergency repairs” budget item. The agenda for tomorrow’s March 10 city commission meeting includes a “justification” of a nearly $49,000 emergency procurement of services performed by New Mexico Tap Master of Albuquerque on “recent waterline breaks.” The meeting packet, which can be reviewed on the city’s website, details that the emergency work included two 12-inch “SS linestop sleeves,” two machines to blow the sleeves into pipes, $750 per day per machine to “hold” the line, mobilization charges and emergency freight charges.

Jesse Cole, the city’s water and wastewater director, who has declined to speak with the Sun about the condition of the city’s southern well field (see Related article below), will give a report on the Feb. 23 water-main breaks, as well as on “other water concerns” during tomorrow’s meeting.

Kathleen Sloan is the Sun’s founder and chief reporter. She can be reached at or 575-297-4146.
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Understanding New Mexico's proposed new social studies standards for K-12 students

“The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.”
—National Council for the Social Studies 

Reader Michael L. Hayes of Las Cruces commented: What impresses me is that both the proposed standards and some of the criticisms of them are equally grotesque. I make this bold statement on the basis of my experience as a peripatetic high school and college English teacher for 45 years in many states with many students differing in race, religion, gender and socioeconomic background, and as a civic activist (PTA) in public education (My career, however, was as an independent consultant mainly in defense, energy and the environment.)

The proposed social studies standards are conceptually and instructionally flawed. For starters, a “performance standard” is not a standard at all; it is a task. Asking someone to explain something is not unlike asking someone to water the lawn. Nothing measures the performance, but without a measure, there is no standard. The teacher’s subjective judgment will be all that matters, and almost anything will count as satisfying a “performance standard,” even just trying. Students will be left to wonder “what is on the teacher’s mind?” or “have I sucked up enough.”

Four other quick criticisms of the performance standards. One, they are nearly unintelligible because they are written in jargon. PED’s use of jargon in a document intended for the public is worrisome. Bureaucrats often use jargon to confuse or conceal something uninformed, wrong or unworthy. As a result, most parents, some school board members and more than a few teachers do not understand them.

Two, the performance standards are so vague that they fail to define the education which teachers are supposed to teach, students are supposed to learn, and parents are supposed to understand. PED does not define words like “explain” or “describe” so that teachers can apply “standards” consistently and fairly. The standards do not indicate what teachers are supposed to know in order to teach or specify what students are supposed to learn. Supervisors cannot know whether teachers are teaching social studies well or poorly. The standards are so vague that the public, especially parents or guardians, cannot know the content of public education.

Three, many performance standards are simply unrealistic, especially at grade level. Under “Ethnic, Cultural and Identity Performance Standards”; then under “Diversity and Identity”; then under “Kindergarten,” one such standard is: “Identify how their family does things both the same as and different from how other people do things.” Do six-year-olds know how other people do things? Do they know whether these things are relevant to diversity and identity? Or another standard: “Describe their family history, culture, and past to current contributions of people in their main identity groups.” (A proficient writer would have hyphenated the compound adjective to avoid confusing the reader.) Do six-year-olds know so much about these things in relation to their “identity group”? Since teachers obviously do not teach them about these other people and have not taught them about these groups, why are these and similar items in the curriculum; or do teachers assign them to go home and collect this information?

Point four follows from “three”; some information relevant to some performance measures requires a disclosure of personal or family matters. The younger the students, the easier it is for teachers to invade their privacy and not only their privacy, but also the privacy of their parents or guardians, or neighbors, who may never be aware of these disclosures or not become aware of them until afterward. PED has no right to design a curriculum which requires teachers to ask students for information about themselves, parents or guardians, or neighbors, or puts teachers on the spot if the disclosures reveal criminal conduct. (Bill says Jeff’s father plays games in bed with his daughter. Lila says Angelo’s mother gives herself shots in the arm.) Since teacher-student communications have no legal protection to ensure privacy, those disclosures may become public accidentally or deliberately. The effect of these proposal standards is to turn New Mexico schools and teachers into investigative agents of the state and students into little informants or spies.

This PED proposal for social studies standards is a travesty of education despite its appeals to purportedly enlightened principles. It constitutes a clear and present danger to individual liberty and civil liberties. It should be repudiated; its development, investigated; its PED perpetrators, dismissed. No state curriculum should encourage or require the disclosure of private personal information.

I am equally outraged by the comments of some of T or C’s school board members: Christine LaFont and Julianne Stroup, two white Christian women, who belong to one of the larger minorities in America and assume white and Christian privileges. In different terms but for essentially the same reason, both oppose an education which includes lessons about historical events and trends, and social movements and developments, of other minorities. They object to the proposal for the new social studies standards because of its emphasis on individual and group identities not white or Christian. I am not going to reply with specific objections; they are too numerous and too pointed.

Ms. LaFont urges: “It’s better to address what’s similar with all Americans. It’s not good to differentiate.” Ms. Stroup adds: “Our country is not a racist country. We have to teach to respect each other. We have civil rights laws that protect everyone from discrimination. We need to teach civics, love and respect. We need to teach how to be color blind.”

Their desires for unity and homogeneity, and for mutual respect, are a contradiction and an impossibility. Aside from a shared citizenship, which implies acceptance of the Constitution, the rule of law and equality under the law, little else defines Americans. We are additionally defined by our race, religion, national origin, etc. So mutual respect requires individuals to respect others different from themselves. Disrespect desires blacks, Jews or Palestinians to assimilate or to suppress or conceal racial, religious or national origin aspects of their identity. The only people who want erasure of nonwhite, non-Christian, non-American origin aspects of identity are bigots. Ms. LaFont and Ms. Stroud want standards which, by stressing similarities and eliding differences, desire the erasure of such aspects. What they want will result in a social studies curriculum that enables white, Christian, native-born children to grow up to be bigots and all others to be their victims. This would be the academic equivalent of ethnic cleansing.


This postmortem of a case involving a 75-year-old women who went missing from her home in Hillsboro last September sheds light on the bounds of law enforcement’s capacity to respond, especially in large rural jurisdictions such as Sierra County, and underscores the critical role the public, as well as concerned family and friends, can play in assisting a missing person’s search.

Reader Jane Debrott of Hillsboro commented: Thank you for your article on the tragic loss of Betsey. I am a resident of Hillsboro, a friend of Rick and Betsey, and a member of H.E.L.P. The thing that most distresses me now, is the emphasis on Rick’s mis-naming of the color of their car. I fear that this fact will cause Rick to feel that if he had only gotten the facts right, Betsey may have been rescued before it was too late. The incident was a series of unavoidable events, out of everyone’s control, and we will never know what place the correct color of her car may have had in the outcome. It breaks my heart to think that Rick has had one more thing added to his “what ifs” concerning this incident.

Diana Tittle responded: Dear Jane, the Sun undertook this investigation at the request of a Hillsboro resident concerned about the town’s inability to mount a prompt, coordinated response to the disappearance of a neighbor. From the beginning, I shared your concern about how our findings might affect Betsy’s family and friends. After I completed my research and began writing, I weighed each detail I eventually chose to include against my desire to cause no pain and the public’s right to know about the strengths and limitations of law enforcement’s response and the public’s need to know about how to be of meaningful assistance.

There was information I withheld about the state police investigation and the recovery. But I decided to include the issue of the car’s color because the individuals who spotted Betsy’s car emphasized how its color had been key to their identification of it as the vehicle described in Betsy’s Silver Alert. Because the misinformation was corrected within a couple of hours, I also included in this story the following editorial comment meant to put the error in perspective: “The fact that law enforcement throughout the state was on the lookout in the crucial early hours after Betsy’s disappearance for an elderly woman driving a “light blue” instead of a “silver” Accord would, in retrospect, likely not have changed the outcome of the search” [emphasis added].

I would also point to the story’s overarching conclusion about the inadvisability of assigning blame for what happened: “In this case, a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances, many of them beyond human control, hindered the search that it would fall to Hamilton’s department to lead.”

It is my hope that any pain caused by my reporting will eventually be outweighed by its contribution to a better community understanding of what it will take in the future to mount a successful missing person’s search in rural Sierra County.


T or C water department director mum on possibly major problems with city’s well field
by Kathleen Sloan | February 25, 2021

The director's candid remark about the need for a new well to be built on the northside of town to provide "redundancy" launched a Sun...

City’s water rates must go up to get $9.4 million loan/grant
by Kathleen Sloan | January 23, 2020

​Water rates will have to go up 35 percent or more if the City of Truth or Consequences wants to keep a $9.4-million loan-grant from…

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