In other business at its May 14 meeting, the Silver City Town Council heard staff reports and addressed an addendum to the agreement between the town of Silver City and the Fraternal Order of Police and the Silver City Police Officers' Association, heard a budget presentation and approved a notice of intent to pass an ordinance.

Fire Marshal Milo Lambert said due to the high temperatures, high winds and dry conditions, the Silver City Fire Department was enacting Stage 1 Fire Restrictions, which include:
A.    No building or maintaining of campfires.
B.    No open burning to include the burning of yard waste, tree limbs, and weeds.
C.    UL approved propane grills with appropriate covers/lids are approved.
D.    Any other outdoor wood or charcoal-burning device shall have protective fire screens and prior approval from the Silver City Fire Department.
E.    Underground fire pits for use of meal preparation shall have appropriate covers such as screen, metal siding and/or dirt.  Fires used to prepare hot coals must have a protective screen and a five-foot clearance around the entire fire pit.  Fire pits must have prior approval from the Silver City Fire Department who will issue a special burn permit.

"The department will not issue fire permits," Lambert said. "We are still in extreme drought with high fire danger. If the issue continues to worsen, we will go to further stages."

"Let's make sure we stay on top of this," Mayor James Marshall said. "I don't want to miss the deadlines for July 4."

Marshall also commended Town Clerk Ann Mackie for having received accreditation from the International Association of Clerks as a Master Clerk. "She was one of 10 in the entire state."

The next order of business was to approve an addendum to the agreement between the town of Silver City and the Fraternal Order of Police and the Silver City Police Officers' Association. Town Manager Alex Brown said one of the biggest obstacles for the town is to retain officers and to keep more on the street.

"We've been losing officers to Grant County, with the biggest obstacle being that the county pays 100 percent of their employees' insurance," Brown said. "We negotiated two parts. Police officers eliminated their fitness leave, and decreased their on-call time by one day a month. Additional longevity pay of $300 a year was included in the budget. The union ratified it."

The Town Council approved the addendum.

Brown presented the budget, which has estimated revenues of $9.343 million, transfers of $198,000, and expenditures of $8.82 million. "We are $76,000 over our required reserve. I adjusted the franchise fees to this year's actual fees, but I think they will go up. On the property tax, I left the one mil increase, but with the hold harmless happening, we have to diversify our revenues. I want to get the water and sewer fund, so the gross receipts taxes go into the General Fund."

Councilor Cynthia Bettison asked if council action were required on the one-mil increase.

"It will be included in the adoption of the preliminary budget," Brown said. "On a house with the assessed value of $200,000, it would be an increase of $20. "

In the water/sewer fund, a rate increase of 30 cents per 1,000 gallons of sewer usage, and 20 cent increase on waste. "The tiers are Tier 1, up to 3,000 gallon water usage a month; Tier 2, from 3,000 to 10,000 gallons a month and Tier 3, over 10,000 gallons a month. We set a 25 cent increase on 1,000 gallons to get the gross receipts out of it."

"Actually we are pumping less water," Brown said. "We had a pumping decrease of 11 percent in 2012. So far in 2013, it's a 2.3 percent decrease. It's above last year, but still below 2011 levels. It's quite a bit lower than the 10-year average. In 2013, 103 million fewer gallons were pumped. We're losing $300,000 in revenue, but still have fixed expenses. With the new pumps, we started seeing saving four or five years ago. Electric rates are increasing, so we are not seeing those savings. Fixed costs include personnel, insurance, and capital replacement costs. We will see saving in electricity next year on the wastewater treatment plant with the solar array. With the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system, we have gone to off-peak pumping, but we still saw electricity increases, but we are able to fill tanks faster by doubling the pumping capacity. We have a net savings, with decreased billable amounts of water offsetting each other."

He said there were no changes to the sanitation fund, with a 3 percent automatic increase. "The Southwest Solid Waste Authority is refinancing its debt, so we will add to our beginning cash balance."

Lodgers' Tax has dropped from $225,000 to $200,000, Brown reported. "Our revenue projections are going down.  Data collection will be moved into professional services."

Marshall said the town wants a better view of data from websites. "Hits are almost irrelevant. What is relevant is telling us who is looking and ages and incomes, what they are looking at and where they are coming from. We need to come up with data-driven targets for our advertising. It will give us a better picture of where we should be advertising and to whom. We'll ask for proposals so that we can look at data and determine whether an ad works or it doesn't."

Brown said gas tax money pays for street maintenance. "We've been seeing a decrease in revenues for the past 12 years, so we are seeing less money available for street maintenance. After the first quarter, we'll look at how to bring in additional revenues."

Peter Russell, Community Development Department director, said his office is investigating how the gas station issue can be resolved. "With the least amount of remediation, it will cost $100,000 as a cost estimate. If we just close it out, it is $20,000. We are exploring options."

"It's a whole different set of numbers than the town was given at the time of the purchase," Marshall said. "The pumps were supposed to be in better shape."

"This year's biggest obstacle is addressing the loss of hold harmless," Brown said. "We want to address it gradually, so it doesn't hit us hard at its beginning in two years."

A notice of intent was approved to address an issue with the transfer of the purchase order for the solar array at the wastewater treatment plant from NRG Solar, which transferred it to Affordable Solar. Brown said the purchase order had the option to transfer. "One issue that was a problem was that our bond counsel and theirs wanted to issue the same industrial revenue bond to Affordable Solar."

Bettison clarified: "So this is the same ordinance, but Affordable Solar is a New Mexico-based company?"

Brown said yes and the financing is also New Mexico-based.

This completes the May 14 Town Council meeting reports.

Live from Silver City

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