AmeriCorps Volunteers tell the Council, "National Service Works for Silver City." Seated from left are Councilor Cynthia Bettison, Councilor Polly Cook, Mayor James Marshal, Councilor Jose Ray, Jr., and Councilor Mike Morones. Standing from left are AmeriCorps Volunteers Timothy Miller (behind), Jacqueline Olea (in front), Justin Blanton, Richard Blevins, Krista Joslin, Melissa Cano, and Kimberly Brown. (Photo by Charlie McKee)
By Charlie McKee
During the Silver City Town Council meeting of Tuesday, April 9, Town Manager Alex Brown sought guidance from the Mayor and Town Council regarding various alternative approaches to compensating for the Town's current revenue shortfall.
Brown explained that recent tax legislation enacted by the state of New Mexico, as well as other factors such as less water being pumped than projected, have resulted in the Town's expenses exceeding its current revenues. Brown recommended a proactive approach to correct for this change in the fiscal year 2013 to 2014 budget in order to avoid the Town's having to incur any additional debt. In reviewing Silver City's water rates, Brown stated that the town's rates are approximately half of other southwest New Mexico municipalities and 20% lower than the state average. In addition, water/sewer rates have not been raised as far back as he was able to research.
The rate increase Brown favors would lower the cap on first tier usage, the least expensive, from 3,000 gallons to 2,000 gallons per month; the second tier usage from 10,000 to 8,000 gallons per month; and the third tier, the most expensive, from greater than 13,000 gallons to greater than 10,000 gallons per month.
Brown informed the Council that another approach to compensate for the revenue shortfall would be to look at increasing property taxes, which are extremely low in Grant County. While the Mayor and Council applauded Brown's proactive approach to increasing the Town's revenue stream and avoiding increased debt service, they urged caution in implementing a property tax increase as a solution. The Council encouraged Brown to continue research and development of alternative proposals to increase Town revenues.
Prior to the budget discussion, Mayor James Marshall made four proclamations for the month of April:
• Sexual Assault Awareness Month, joining President Obama's and Governor Martinez's similar proclamations;
• Child Abuse Prevention Month;
• Autism Awareness Month; and
• Fair Housing Month.
During the Input portion of the meeting, seven AmeriCorps Volunteers sponsored by The Wellness Coalition introduced themselves to the Mayor and Town Council and noted that, on April 9, 2013, 830 other U.S. mayors were recognizing AmeriCorps Volunteers for their contribution to communities across the nation. Timothy Miller, who spoke on behalf of the group, stated that 80 young adults per year participate in the program to help local communities in the four-county area served by The Wellness Coalition. They are currently in partnership with Silver City MainStreet, Hidalgo Medical Services, Aldo Leopold High School, The Volunteer Center, and other organizations to provide volunteer services to local citizens.
Faye McCalmont of the Mimbres Region Arts Council also spoke during the Input portion of the meeting to inform the Council of a new Youth Mural Project that will take place as part of Comcast Cares Day on April 27, 2013. The theme of the mural is "Agua es la Vida" or "Water is Life." McCalmont urged the Mayor, Council, and staff to make clay "raindrops" at Leyba & Ingalls Art Studio this Saturday, April 13, for inclusion as "April Showers" in the mural. The mural will be installed on the 12th Street Bridge between Grant and Santa Rita Streets in Silver City.
During the Reports portion of the meeting, Ken Romig, Project Manager for the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Program, presented the results of a public meeting regarding mine safety on Boston Hill. The meeting was part of Phase One of the four-phase project to safeguard the public from hazards presented by abandoned mines on Boston Hill. The AML team's findings on Boston Hill included numerous mineshafts, in need of mitigation due to falling rock and entrapment hazards, as well as thin ceilings that could collapse. The feedback the team received from attendees at the public meeting included the fact that the community loves Boston Hill and its inherent risks, but recognizes that it can pose hazards to public safety; that residents do not want change to the Hill if it is not required; and that the team should continue forward with its planning and project design efforts. To conclude Phase One, the AML team will provide a project report and conduct a two-day workshop to develop a project plan incorporating community input.
Also as part of the Reports portion of the meeting, the Southwest New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce made its quarterly report to the Mayor and Council in conjunction with the Silver City Arts and Cultural District (ACD). Cissy McAndrew, Executive Director of the Chamber, reported that the number of visitors to the area is down in 2013 compared to 2012, but is improving. The Visitor Center is experiencing increased numbers of requests for relocation packets, and the Chamber has produced a new Downtown Guide for visitors. McAndrew stated that the Center needs more volunteers, and she is pursuing enlisting WNMU interns to help.
George Julian Dworin, the new Director of the ACD, emphasized the importance of a strong advertising campaign to draw more tourism to Silver City. Both he and McAndrew will be attending the Governor's Conference on Tourism in Santa Fe, where he will be partnering with five other New Mexico ACDs to leverage advertising campaigns to increase tourism. Dworin pointed out that Silver City and Grant County are a driving destination and that billboards on the I-10 and I-25 corridors can encourage drivers to "Be Here by Lunch!" He also underscored the success of Silver City's "New Mexico True" ad campaign and the focus on Internet advertising as major accomplishments in Silver City's promotion of tourism.
During the Public Hearing portion of the Town Council meeting, the Town of Silver City applied for rezoning of properties in the Fraser Survey and Schadel's Subdivision from Commercial or Residential B zoning to Mixed Use zoning. The block of properties is bordered by Swan Street on the east, Bennett Street on the west, 12th Street on the south, and 15th Street on the north. The properties surround an RV Park. As a result of the Public Hearing, the Council approved Ordinance No. 1217, amending the Official Zoning Map to Mixed Use zoning for these properties.
In the New Business portion of the meeting, the Council took the following actions:
• Approved Special Dispenser Permit Application for the Mimbres Region Arts council's 18th Annual Silver City Blues Festival, May 24 to 26, 2013.
• Disapproved Bid #12/13-10, Homeowner Rehabilitation Project. The project will be put out to bid again with a request to bid on minimum project requirements, since the original bids received were too high.
After the New Business was concluded, the Mayor and Council adjourned to Executive Session.