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Grant County commissioners approve preliminary budget

Grant County commissioners proclaimed June 1 as National Trails Day. Three people were on hand to receive and promote the day in Grant County. Activities will include a hike and a bike ride at 10 a.m. on the Dragonfly Trail, and events at noon at the Cobre Performing Arts Center. From left are Commission Chairman Brett Kasten, National Trails Day spokeswoman Nancy Cliff, holding one side of the banner Linda Ferrara, Commissioner Ron Hall, Michelle Giese holding other end of banner and Commissioner Gabriel Ramos.(Photo by Mary Alice Murphy)

The Grant County Commission passed its preliminary budget, held two public hearings, appointed individuals to the Protest Board and to the Gila Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees and delivered a proclamation, among other business items.

County Manager Jon Paul Saari said nothing had changed in the main funds, including the General Fund, Road Fund and Corrections Fund, since the discussion on Tuesday at the work session.

"Linda (Vasquez, director of financial services) discovered we had not carried over the Corre Caminos balance," Saari said. "We don't change budgets for the transit authority at this time, because its fiscal year is the same as the federal fiscal year, ending Sept. 30. We keep the money in the fund and will adjust it when the federal grants come in. Linda verified the numbers were correct."


He said the recommended budget was where the county should be at this time. It does take into account the 15 percent increase in insurance costs.

"We are thinking about going out for a request for proposal on insurance costs," Saari said. "We want to see if we can find insurance that will not reduce the benefits or increase the co-pays. The individual deductible for this year was $400 and will increase with our current coverage to $700. The family deductible would rise from $1,200 to $2,100. We want a plan where the premiums and deductibles are lower. With an RFP, we would be looking at January for implementation."

Chairman Brett Kasten pointed out that increases in health-care insurance premiums and deductibles are being seen across the country.

Saari said the county has budgeted its required three-twelfths reserve and is projecting about $70,000 surplus. "It is a conservative budget. When we get the true numbers for next year, we will adjust the budget where required to submit the final budget to the state in July."

Commissioners approved the preliminary budget.

Public hearing No. 1 discussed the adoption of an ordinance entitled: "Pledging the Distributions of Environmental Services Gross Receipts Tax Revenue Bonds received by the County of Grant, New Mexico, from the New Mexico Department of Taxation and Revenue…to Repayment of the Southwest Solid Waste Authority Solid Waste System Improvement and Refunding Revenue Bonds, Series 2013; ratifying actions heretofore taken; repealing all action inconsistent with this ordinance; and authorizing the taking of other actions in connection with the pledge of the pledged revenues to the Series 2013 Bonds."

Kasten said it was pledging the funds, but not paying them. "It's our backstop."

Saari explained the Solid Waste Authority had loans from Grant County and Silver City, which it was paying back each month. "This refinances all loans, compiles them into one loan, which will pay us and the city back, allow the authority to create new cells and buy needed equipment. It pays us back about $120,000 and relieves the environmental services gross receipts tax. We will continue to use our environmental services gross receipts tax to pay the Southwest Solid Waste Authority for its services for us."

He said the ordinance for Grant County is "positive," as it gives the county $120,000 up front.

Kasten said the loan is also positive for the authority, so it can build up a reserve for future needs, including reclamation of old cells.

Commissioners approved the ordinance.

Public hearing No. 2 addressed an application for a variance from the County Subdivision Regulation from B.T. Enterprises for the Wind Canyon II Subdivision, Phases IV and V.

County Planner Anthony Gutierrez said the commission had asked him to find a resolution for the roads issue in Wind Canyon, so the county could bring them up to standards for maintenance.

"I tried to find a spec to utilize some of the material already out there," Gutierrez said. "In my experience using base course without it being covered, it doesn't compact well. It causes corduroy roads. Base course is not designed to not be covered by asphalt. The subdivision regulations require base course. I went out and looked at the roads. I thought the existing material could make good roads. I found a class D material that allows a wider range of aggregate. I had a certified tester do an independent test. I had several conversations with the owner, and I think we would have a better road without base course and the road will not fail. Not all areas meet the specs. I had a meeting with the contractor who will do the work. Some places will require Type C base course, and other places Type D. Those places with a lot of clay in the soil and places with oversized rocks, we will cover, but not using it everywhere will reduce overall costs."

He explained that he has dual certification in asphalt and in soil testing. "The biggest issue in the area is a lack of maintenance. I recommend you accept the variance."

Commissioner Ron Hall asked to confirm a second opinion on the roads. Gutierriez said the testing was done by an independent tester.

Kasten suggested that, if on rural roads within the county it would be better to use Type D base course, perhaps the subdivision regulations should be changed to allow it. "Once we do it this time, there will be more requests for variances."

"I'm on the Subdivision Review Committee," Gutierrez said. "I've always recommended that base course is not designed to be uncovered. Grant County has a broad variety of soils. The SRC hears variances first."

Kasten asked Hall to head up a group to implement possible changes and asked Gutierrez to also be part of the group.

Commissioners approved the variance with language saying it was with the recommendation of the county planner.

During public input, Steve Griego, who represents county workers, asked the county to consider in their budget discussions that workers had not received a raise in four years, except for a couple mentioned at the work session. He also said the dispatch authority was having issues with retention of workers.

On the regular agenda, commissioners approved:
• The expenditure report dated Mary 20, 2013, for $1,109,499/06, which includes about $353,000 for work at the Business and Conference Center;
• A proclamation naming June 1 as "National Trails Day." Commissioner Gabriel Ramos asked those present to receive the proclamation if they were aware of how many trails would be closed in the forest. Nancy Cliff said they would like to keep trails open. She said at the June 1 activities, a 48-page trails guide would be available. "Doctors can write prescriptions for people to use the trails." Hall said the trails are an economic development draw. "It's also about health, because walking is easy, cheap and healthy," Cliff said;
• Appointment of Paul Ciano and Georgia Bearup to the Grant County Protest Board, with Sylvia Mikes as alternate;
• Appointment of Freddie M. Rodriguez to the Gila Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees to fill out the remaining term of Jim Leidich through June 30, 2013;
• An agreement with the New Mexico of Transportation Aviation Division for $100,000 for the Airport Action/Development Plan;
• A program work plan and agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services for the Integrated Wildlife Damage Management Program for $27,500, primarily paid out of ranchers' livestock taxes;
• A resolution authorizing the execution and delivery of a loan and intercept agreement with the New Mexico Finance Authority for $708,684 to finance the cost of purchasing, construction and installing a public building at the County Fairgrounds, to replace the one severely damaged by a micro-burst last year;
• Adoption of the Grant County Americans with Disabilities Transition Plan, including prioritizing barriers to access;
• Adoption of the Grant County Title VI Program, prohibiting discrimination in those activities receiving federal financial assistance, and creating a limited English proficiency plan for Corre Caminos busses;
• Authorization of the execution and delivery of a loan and intercept agreement with NMFA for $245,657 for Pinos Altos Volunteer Fire Department to purchase a water tanker, using a portion of their annual fire funding to repay the loan; and
• Budget adjustments to reflect the receipt of grants into the county departments throughout the year.

As the Grant County Indigent and Health Care Claims Board, commissioners approved 1041 claims for $581,305.02. Out-of-county claims will be paid with the indigent gross receipts tax in the amount of $44,563.97 for 15 claims. The in county claims, 1026 for $536,741.05, will be paid when GRMC receives its sole community provider funding.

Commissioners went into executive session to discuss the county manager's goals and job performance.

County reports from the work session and regular session will be covered in the next article.

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