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Commissioners at work session hear Silver Fire update

Grant County commissioners at their work session this morning, June 11, heard an update on the Silver Fire, a lightning-caused fired, which is burning in the Black Range.

Ellen Brown, Gila National Forest Fire Prevention Officer, presented an update on the Silver Fire, which to date, since its inception on Friday, June 7, has burned close to 7,000 acres, in spite of it being "a full suppression fire."

"The fire had high activity last night, and the acreage is estimated to be closer to 7,500 to 8,000 acres burned," Brown said. "Fire behavior is active on all sides, and it is not settling down at night. The area has not seen significant fire for more than 100 years, and there is a lot of dead and dying trees, due to beetle-kill, as well as fuel build up. We have already put about 50,000 gallons of retardant on the fire. Because of the terrain, we have no consistent boots on the ground. It is an unsafe situation. Air support is continuing, and we did a lot of preparation work in Kingston, which was evacuated at about 1:30 Monday morning. We have good communication with Kingston and Hillsboro.


"We had a public meeting in Hillsboro last evening, which the governor attended," Brown continued. "Smoke is an issue, and we have smoke monitors in Hillsboro and in Truth or Consequences. Kingston is well prepared. I will be going to Hillsboro as the tech advisor to get them prepped. It would take a severe event to impact Hillsboro, but we will be prepared."

She said the management of the fire had been taken over by Northern Arizona Incident Type II Management Command group, headed by Matt Reidy. The IMT has set up at San Lorenzo Elementary School. The contact numbers are 575-536-3382, 575-536-3285, and 575-536-3287.

Brown reported that the Royal John Mine Road is closed to traffic, except for residents.

"The most critical area of the fire is on the east side," Brown said.

According to inciweb.org, much of the growth has been on the south side of the fire.

Stage 1 fire restrictions are still in effect in the Gila National Forest, with no fires allowed except in agency provided fire rings. Smoking is allowed only in vehicles or within a cleared area. The state of New Mexico has a fire ban, with no active outdoor fires outside, except for propane stoves.

County Manager Jon Paul Saari said at a meeting the prior afternoon, people were talking about a long-term season-ending fire. "I presume that means that until the monsoon, the fire will continue to burn in pockets."

Brown confirmed that and said the terrain was so steep, that Hot Shots were turning down assignments to the fire. "We will herd the fire until we get significant rain."

The climate forecasts say that the area is in a "La Nada cycle, which means it is neither an El Niño or a La Niña," she said to laughter. "There really is such a designation. It means that the cycle is neutral, so it is difficult to predict the monsoon."

Saari said Grant County is working with Sierra County on implementing the Reverse 911 system, and that people with cell phones and a Grant County address can sign up for and access the service for notifications.

Brown said Community Access Television of Silver City would be posting a fire awareness video.

Prior to the fire report, a special meeting was held to discuss the placement of liens on properties that are delinquent in payment of solid waste fees. The placement of liens was approved and, according to Ted Martinez, of the Treasurer's Office, after the more than 350 liens are signed, they will be recorded.

Commissioners then reviewed the agenda for the Thursday, June 13, regular meeting at 9 a.m. At the beginning of the meeting will be three public hearings.

The first will address a proclamation and an emergency ordinance declaring extreme or severe drought conditions, with, according to Saari, the imposition of the strictest fireworks restrictions the county can do, per state statute.

The second hearing will consider an emergency ordinance declaring a fire hazard emergency and enacting measures to decrease the county's risk of injury to persons or property and substantial financial loss to the county of Grant and its residents as a result of fire.

County Attorney Abigail Robinson said she was not sure the ordinance made clear the different between a propane or gas-fired stove and open flames. "Otherwise, it is exactly the same as last year's ordinance. It expires automatically in 30 days."

The third public hearing will address consideration of an ordinance entitled County Capital Outlay Gross Receipts Tax. The approval of this ordinance and a resolution will set up a special election to approve or disapprove a gross receipts tax for "quality of life" improvements, including items that would improve residents' and visitors' experiences in Grant County through design, construction, acquisition, improvement, renovation, rehabilitation, equipping or furnishing public buildings, facilities or infrastructure.

The financial report reflects expenditures as of June 11 of $780,152.41, with about $64,000 of that related to the Corre Caminos terminal at the Business and Conference Center. "We will start working with the veterans to change the name of the building," Saari said

The cash flow reports indicate at the end of the fiscal year on June 30, the county expects to have in the General Fund a cash balance of $2,913,696, with the required three-twelfths cash reserve of $2,807,123, leaving a surplus of $106, 570.

The Road Fund projections show a cash balance of $677,048, minus the required one-twelfths reserve of $130,935, leaving a surplus of $546, 113.

The Corrections Fund shows a projected cash balance of $45,281, with no required reserve.

During the regular meeting Thursday, commissioners will appoint three members to the Gila Regional Medical Center board of trustees, with one non-physician position being for one year, and another for three years to align the position terms. Another position for three years will be for a physician.

Commissioners will consider an intergovernmental transfer of ambulances and other equipment from Grant County's inventory to GRMC's inventory, as the hospital is the entity that uses the items.  "We've been looking at the transfer," Saari said, "because we own them, but we don't have control of their use. It will be cleaner if we transfer the assets to their books, title them in the GRMC name and let the hospital insure them. The items were purchased with funds for which the county is fiscal agent."

The next item of new business will be appointment of Mary Guthrie to fill the unexpired term of County Assessor Randy Villa, who has been named to the General Services Director/Fire Management Officer position. Villa's letter of resignation is valid June 14. Guthrie will fill the position until she must run in the next General Election.

Under contracts and agreements, commissioners will approve or disapprove an amendment to the agreement for animal control services with the High Desert Humane Society.  The county pays a set amount annually plus a fee for every animal brought into the shelter from Grant County. The amendment extends the agreement to June 30, 2014 for about $65,000.

Also to be considered is a professional services contract with The Recovery Management Center to provide services for the DWI Program not to exceed $25,000. Saari said the funding is paid through DWI grants.

Five resolutions will be considered:
• An amendment to the Open Meetings Act, because of changes made during the recent legislative session, requiring earlier notifications of meetings and agendas. Commission Chairman Brett Kasten noted that the Legislature is not required to follow the OMA and pulled the item out of a committee, where it did not receive consent, to revive it at the last minute and push it through the House and Senate;
• Revisions to the County Vehicle Accident Prevention Policy to "loosen" it a bit and clarify reporting requirements;
• A notice of intent resolution to pass an ordinance requiring a movement certificate and tax release prior to moving a manufactured home within Grant County and providing penalties and enforcement for failure to comply;
• A resolution adopting a return to work and modified duty policy for those county employees who are injured or ill.  Saari said the policy would be implemented on a case-by-case basis and modified duty would not be automatic; and
• A resolution calling for a special election regarding the imposition of a county capital outlay gross receipts tax of .25 percent.

Saari said a resolution would be added to authorize DWI to collect from county-authorized misdemeanor compliance fees of $15 to $50 for surveillance purposes.

A future article will include the county reports.

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