Grant County Commissioners ended their work session Tuesday, April 23, with a tour of the Grant County Detention Center. Before that, a more than two-hour meeting addressed new business, contracts and agreements and resolutions.

County Manager Jon Paul Saari presented the regular monthly financial reports. As of March 31, 2013, the county had a general fund cash balance total of $3,010,703.  Cash balance estimated to be on hand at the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2013 is $2,886,574. After subtracting the general fund required cash reserve of $2,807,123 the county will have a surplus of $79,451 at the end of June.

The Road Fund at the end of March had a cash balance of $606,549, with a projected cash balance at the end of the fiscal year of $729,044, minus the required cash reserve of $130,935, leaving a surplus of $598,109.

The Corrections Fund at the end of March had a negative cash balance of ($631,425), because transfers from the General Fund have not yet been made. Through the end of June, Corrections is projected to have $645,093, with a surplus of $13,667. No cash reserve is required.

The expenditures for the past month, since the last commission meeting, total $2,318,065.60. Saari said construction at the Business and Conference Center is winding down. The report includes two payrolls.

A proclamation will be made to congratulate the Cliff High School Basketball Cowboys for winning the state championship. A certificate of recognition will be presented to Coach Pete Shock for his 35 years of coaching the team. A second proclamation will be presented, naming Tuesday, May 14, 2013, as American Legion Day. National American Legion Commander James. E. Koutz will make an official visit to the Allingham-Golding Post 18 that day.

The membership of Post 18 also made a request to county commissioners to rename the Business and Conference Center as the Grant County Veterans Memorial Conference Center to honor the veterans of Grant County, who have served in all branches of service in all wars and conflicts and those still serving today, and would include a permanent memorial. Saari said the grant being used to pay for the present construction requires the name Conference Center to be retained.

The High Desert Humane Society will give an update to the commissioners. Saari said the contract is based on a set amount of funding from the county, plus remuneration for the number of animals taken into the shelter.

The Wellness Coalition will also give an update on the Non-Profit Resource Center.

Chris Arvidson of the Juvenile Probation Office will present an update on the Surveillance and GPS program. Saari said a couple of the ankle bracelets are not being used, and Margaret Begay, who is now in charge of Drug Court, may ask to use them.

Commission Chairman Brett Kasten asked if there had been any progress on using the Hidalgo County jail as a juvenile detention center. He said State Rep. Dona Irwin had suggested she could allocate her capital outlay money to the program.  Commissioner Gabriel Ramos said he thought Hidalgo County was looking for additional funding.

"In working with Hidalgo County, we could take their adults, if they take our juveniles, and Catron County could also benefit, because they have an average population of six," Kasten said.

Also on the agenda is an update from the Southwest New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce.

Commissioners will approve or disapprove a petition from the Viva Santa Rita subdivision to create an improvement district. Saari said it meets the criteria and is the first step. "Once it is accepted, we will move forward with the other steps. We will approach the NMFA to take out a loan to be repaid by the mill levy on the property owners in the subdivision."

The petition is from those on Kneeling Nun and Miner's Legend roads, according to County Planner Anthony Gutierrez.

Saari explained this petition was done first, because the roads in the subdivision were already dedicated to the county. The Loma Verde subdivision roads were not previously dedicated, so that must be done first.

A consent agenda item to approve or disapprove the Fiscal-Year 2014 County Fire Protection Fund Distribution applications for the various volunteer fire departments in the county will be considered.

Also under consideration will be Policy No. 56 of the Grant County Sheriff's Department's Standard Operating Procedures addressing the video recording, photographing and audio recording of Sheriff's Department personnel by the public.

"We want to make it clear that the public has the constitutional right to record any activity, as long as the person or persons is not in the way of official business," Villanueva said. "Once the department has set a perimeter, a member of the public cannot cross it. The public has the right to record, if they abide by the rules set by law enforcement." The individual must have a legal right to be present, according to the language in the policy. A person also cannot interfere with police activity.

Renewal of a commercial lease between the county and Mountain Ridge Hardware LLC will be taken up at the meeting.  County Attorney Abby Robinson said the initial lease period will be extended to 10 years, starting May 1, with a raise in rate from $6.38 to $6.82 a square foot, with two options for renewal at the end of 10 years. The square footage of the space leased is also increased from interior space of 17, 052 to 17,976 square feet and outdoor space to 13,000 square feet.

Saari explained that the lease also includes a charge for common area maintenance. "Instead of paying 1/12th of the estimated cost each month, the county will bill them in January for 26 percent of the CAM charges, so we don't have to hold the money and then refund what was not used."

A resolution to be voted on will support the Cottage San Road Safety Improvement Project to consist of placing warning lights and signage for a curve determined to be of high risk.

A second resolution will be under consideration for adoption of an ordinance authorizing issuance and sale of up to $2.5 million Southwest Solid Water Authority bonds for improvement and refunding revenue bonds series 2013 and refinancing, paying and discharging of outstanding obligations of the authority; constructing and equipping improvements; and paying costs of issuance related to the bonds. The county will pledge the county's environmental services gross receipts tax revenue toward the repayment of the series 2013 bonds.

Saari said two items might be added to the agenda. One would be a resolution from Senior Services to create an agreement with the Area Agency on Aging, "saying we're participating in the program."

The county has also been approached by the Shooting Range Board to create term limits for members and to fill vacant positions. "We plan to stagger the terms."

Kasten asked if there were a list of responsibilities for the board members. "I think they are doing a good job, but maybe the board needs a higher level structure. Let's talk about that at a May meeting, then we could appoint them in June for the fiscal year."

Commissioner Ron Hall suggested the board be required to have regular meetings.

The last item of business will be as the Grant County Indigent and Health Care Claims Board.

Saari said the county has been sending quarterly payments, but the state is freezing them and not paying the hospitals for claims. "The federal government says the formula at the state has been mis-applied, and the federal government feels the state owes money to it."

"If it's frozen, I'll keep it," Saari said. "We could send the $2 million to Gila Regional Medical Center instead of to the state. The state is trying to figure out how to pay the federal government. It sounds to me like the state wants to push the unfunded mandate to the counties."

"I have no trouble not sending it to the state," Kasten said.

Saari explained the out-of-county expenditures, in this case of about $39,000, are being paid. "I will find out by Thursday, whether the state will pay the claims for more than $756,000."

The regular meeting will take place at 9 a.m. Thursday, April 25, at the Grant County Administration Center.

The next article(s) will feature county reports.

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