San Elizario's last-minute bid for incorporation

Group turns in paperwork to incorporate San Elizario

SAN ELIZARIO, Texas - Just in the nick of time, a proposal to incorporate San Elizario was handed over to El Paso County's judge. The deadline for an item to be put on November's ballot is Aug. 26, at 5 p.m. Maya Sanchez, the president of a San Elizario group seeking to incorporate their community, handed over documents around 11 a.m. to make the November ballot.

"I've never created a city before," said Sanchez, explaining why the move came down to the wire.

The move didn't pop up overnight. Sanchez said the real work began in February. That's when the city of Socorro attempted to annex part of their community.

Since that time weekly meetings have been held, and money was raised to hire land surveyors who could help push their project forward.

Incorporation talks for San Elizario are nothing new. A bid to incorporate failed in 1979. In the mid-1990s, Sanchez said a group pushed to re-incorporate based on an old incorporation of San Elizario. It also failed.

"We just want to retain our way of life," said Sanchez.

San Elizario sits within the Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) of Socorro. That gives Socorro the opportunity to annex the land. Earlier this year, the bid to annex parts of San Elizario failed because members of the Socorro City Council had no legal standing to make that action.

A judge ruled that members of the city council had illegally extended their terms. It led to elections, which brought in new faces. Recently, that council gave approval to Sanchez's group to seek incorporation within Socorro's ETJ.

With November elections looming, those people may not remain in office in Socorro. Three city representatives are up for election in November.

Since the future is uncertain, Sanchez made her move Monday. When she handed over a map, approval from the Socorro City Council, and a legal document with 83 San Elizario signatures, a few people applauded.

Not everyone is on board. Maria Covernali lives in San Elizario, too. She was the lone person to speak against the incorporation. She told ABC-7 there are many more people behind her, and that she thinks they'll show up at the polls in November if Sanchez's documents are approved.

"I agree to incorporate, but not now," said Covernali. "We don't have the money."

Covernali said she doesn't believe that San Elizario has the tax base to pay a mayor and build the necessary infrastructure.

At this time, the County Attorney, Public Works Director and County Elections department are working to make sure everything on the documents is in line. They need to verify at least 50 signatures, that the map boundaries are accurate, and that the proper amount of people live within the proposed boundaries that would allow for incorporation.

If the paperwork proves to be proper, the El Paso County judge will approve the item for November's election. El Paso County's county attorney told ABC-7 she believes the paperwork will be approved by 3 p.m.

According to Sanchez, the real work begins when the item appears on the ballot. Her group intends to push for incorporation just like a candidate would campaign for office.

ABC-7's Matthew Smith is continuing to follow this story. For updates as the deadline approaches, follow him on Twitter @MattSmithABC7.

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