Photo: Grant County Commissioners recognized the Cobre High School Band with a proclamation recognizing its winning a state championship for the 14th time. From left are Director Chuck Gerheart, Commissioner Gabriel Ramos, Tyler Call, Amber Peña, Commission Chairman Brett Kasten, Alexis Rico, Caitlyn Hyde and Commissioner Ron Hall.
At the beginning of the Grant County Commission regular meeting Thursday, May 9, during public input, Don McNutt, Emergency Medical Services director, said he would be retiring at the end of the month.
"I wanted to say how much I appreciate your support over the past 30 years," McNutt said.
Lonnie Sandoval, representing Loma Verde subdivision, which is seeking road maintenance for its roads, also spoke.
"I was told I would be kept in contact with about Loma Verde," Sandoval told commissioners. "I feel like I'm being lied to."
County Manager Jon Paul Saari said the county has been waiting on the surveyor to complete her research on the subdivision. "Nothing has changed. We can't proceed without the survey. It is taking time to dedicate the right-of-way."
Commissioner Ron Hall requested that Sandoval be contacted at least once a week.
Saari said the surveyors in town "are all swamped. My understanding is that she's finishing up. We'll make sure our planner, Anthony Gutierrez, calls you."
The next item of business was presenting a proclamation to members of the Cobre High School Band to recognize them for their accomplishments in winning their 14th state championship out of 15 years. The band, made up of only high school students, even though the school is a Class AA school competes against Class AAA schools.
Chuck Gerheart, director, said: "I brought only a few today, because they are having finals. I've been telling them it's about being better. People use music as a tool. We are not afraid to compete at a higher level. We teach a lot of life lessons. We keep teaching them to be polite and respectful."
Commissioners also presented a proclamation naming May 9 Children's Mental Health Awareness Day to Rebecca Estrada, anchor site manager for the Systems of Care. She announced a scavenger hunt on Saturday, May 11, with registration at noon for youths aged 11-20.
Kim Clark, representing the 1st New Mexico Bank Wild, Wild West Pro Rodeo, received a proclamation naming the week of June 2-8 as Pro Rodeo Week. She said not only evening events would be held, but also daytime ones.
Ed Wilmot of Wind Canyon subdivision, made a waiver request from a prepared statement, after he commended Commissioner Ron Hall for his "exemplary" embracing of the initiative, as well as thanking Saari and his staff for the work on the issue, and Sheriff Raul Villanueva for helping create the group's Neighborhood Watch program.
"Our major concern is road maintenance," Wilmot said. "We did some research and found out we have a variance to the subdivision regulations. Wind Canyon is a patchwork of two sections with bits of private property in the midst. The ability to have continuous maintenance of the roads is difficult. Some of the roads have been transferred to the county, but a surety bond to complete the transfer of the remainder has been allowed to lapse. The developer BT Enterprises continues to help. A variance may be a solution."
He said at a recent meeting of property owners in Wind Canyon I, Wind Canyon II and Greater Wind Canyon found confusion among the property owners.
"We have two requests within Greater Wind Canyon: we want to treat the maintenance holistically; and before a variance is approved, Greater Wind Canyon would like to understand the variance and how it will affect the future transfer of properties. We want the county, the developer and the residents to work together and be informed before the final action is taken. We are prepared to do what is needed as a united community. We are encouraged by the county and BT Enterprises working together, but we would also like the property owners included.
Saari said the variance would include a durable road base course and there will be a financial assurance. "Anthony Gutierrez, is also meeting with the private property owners."
"We want a unified approach to solve all the road problems, including the ones that connect to roads in Wind Canyon II," Wilmot said.
"We will work on it all at once, although there are two different processes to go through," Kasten said.
Saari said the county did not want to hold up Wind Canyon II, but the others, not in the subdivision, have to be looked at separately.
Karen Carr, who lives in Greater Wind Canyon, said she owns the easement off U.S. 180 west. "There is a low water crossing, which is an issue. We shouldn't have to wait months. Yes, I understand the two different processes, but we in Greater Wind Canyon would also like to see this done. There are 20 of us willing to deed over our easements."
Kasten explained every piece of property must be platted, resurveyed and rededicated, which would take time.
Commissioners approved the intergovernmental transfer/sale of vehicles from the Senior Services Program, including a 2005 Dodge Caravan and a 2002 Chevrolet S-10 to the Tyrone Volunteer Fire Department and a 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier sedan to the Grant County DWI Program, for $500 for each vehicle.
At the request of and to honor Grant County veterans, the Business and Conference Center will be renamed the Grant County Veterans' Memorial Business and Conference Center. Ray Davis of the Allingham-Golding American Legion Post 18 thanked the commissioners for honoring past, present and future veterans of Grant County.
Keith Buffington was appointed to the Grant County Shooting Range advisory board.
A notice of intent to consider an ordinance relating to a gross receipts tax for a quality of life bond brought public discussion.
Saari said the county, the university and the town of Silver City have been looking for some time at processes to improve the quality of life in the county. "We lost the theater and the swimming pool. Constituents want both and want to use them regularly. We looked at options, and the best option was a gross receipts tax for capital infrastructure that will enhance the quality of life. This notice of intent just opens the process to a comment period for the ordinance. On June 13, at our meeting, we will hold a public hearing on the ordinance, which will start the process of holding an election for residents to vote on the tax. If approved, the county will take the revenues to seek a bond for possibly a movie theater, a swimming pool, and a recreation center for children. No projects are listed in the ordinance."
Gordon West, an area small business owner and president of the Southwest New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce, said he is not against the ordinance, but has suggestions to offer. "A lot of people are working on economic development, and there are a lot of plans," West said. "None of the items on your list are in those plans. It feels like our work on plans is being marginalized. The idea of openness and working together is good. The Angelou Economics plan for the county was to work with the university. I think this is an opportunity to do that. Many decisions are not being made on the global level in an open manner. If a person loses a house, they can track 10 vectors. This kind of analysis is not being done. I think it could be groundbreaking work, creating the methodology to analyze a project against others. Collectively governments can look at non-monetized values. I like to see projects carefully analyzed so we can make better decisions."
Sean Ormand said 1st New Mexico Bank of which he is president is a community bank, so it is a small business. "One of the things that brought me back to Silver City was to become involved in economic development in Grant County. When it comes to economic development, we may not get Intel, but it is good to sell outside the community to bring in new dollars. To get right down to it, why does one come to Silver City? Some came for employment at Gila Regional Medical Center, Western New Mexico University and the mines. The mines create a product they sell somewhere else and bring in new dollars. We agree to have input, but we don't want to talk this to death. I heard years ago: 'if we don't start forward with something, we'll be in the same place,' and we are. The quality of life in Silver City is diminishing. We need a referendum on our future by our voters. I want a place for my kids and yours and those of my employees—our kids—to live here, work here and play here. We have to portray the community going forward."
Mike Trujillo, member of the Gila Economic Development Alliance, said he has been on the board since 1980, with the predecessor. "We've been stagnant," Trujillo said. "I think this will help in economic development. I think it will be good for the children of the community. I encourage a favorable vote."
Greg Shaver of Chino Federal Credit Union said his wife owns the Hip Store. "I think this is a great opportunity and I want to see downtown prosper. Anything that benefits the community benefits downtown. This is a great idea."
Town of Silver City Councilor José Ray said he knows Western would like to use the ballfield at Bataan Memorial Park. "It is centrally located in the Mining District. I ask you to consider this ordinance."
Jeremiah Garcia, Gila EDA president, said he loves the county, the city and the university. "This is a great idea and we should consider it as a model all together. It will be a long-term investment. We do support what's happening. We are coming together to get dollars to help the whole community."
Diana Ingalls-Leyba, a downtown business owner, said there is a lot of ebb and flow downtown. "We would love to see a theater district included. It makes a difference. It has affected the rhythms of downtown with the theater closed."
Paul Leetmae of the Toyota, Chrysler and Ford dealerships in town said: "I'm the car guy in town. I came here because it was a challenge. I have to commend what we're doing with the county, city and university. When we are infighting we have to push through it and how we move the ball forward. The new guys in town, Joe (Shepard, WNMU president) and I, are watching. If we can't move forward, there may be a challenge for us somewhere else."
Skip Thacker, Gila EDA member, said he wanted to address his support. He pointed out that a large percentage of the gross receipts tax is paid by visitors.
Francesca Estevez, the district attorney, said she supports the ordinance. "The community is struggling. I think this would help the welfare of residents to go forward."
County Assessor Randy Villa said he, also, supports the notice of intent to pass the ordinance. "I support the collaborative effort. I challenge Santa Clara, Bayard and Hurley councils to jump on board, too."
Sheriff Raul Villanueva said, as a proud father of six children who like movies, "I'm spending a lot in Deming. They also like to swim. It helps to keep kids out of trouble. I would rather see our residents spending here."
Commissioner Gabriel Ramos said he is excited that there may be baseball back at Western. "But also for economic development efforts, we must keep the relationship going."
County Treasurer Steve Armendariz said he believes "it is a giant step in bringing the university into working with the county and city. I challenge other communities to be part and bring ideas. I agree this is a good idea."
Commissioner Ron Hall said he supports the notice of intent, because it is important for the community. "Most important is the community working together. Don't let this be the last time. We need to keep working together to keep the kids here."
Kasten said he doesn't know how to quantify baseball at Western, but people will spend money. "The other evening, I put a 16-year-old girl in a car to go to the movie in Deming. It didn't sit well with me. It would have been better to have the movie here. This is the beginning of open dialogue. There will be hearings on how to spend the tax, after it is approved. There will be hearings on projects."
In other business, commissioners approved boundary amendments for the county volunteer fire departments to eliminate gaps between the districts; and a request for proposal for engineering services at the airport. Saari said four applications were received. "After the review committee used a point system to rank them, WH Pacific came out on top."
County reports will be covered in a future article.