Grant County commissioners at their work session Tuesday gave residents a warning about using fireworks during these dry days. A special meeting will be set to renew the emergency drought proclamation and ordinance, which expire 30 days from their passage earlier this month.

During a special meeting right before the work session, commissioners proclaimed the week of June 24-30, Grant County Relay for Life Week.County Manager Jon Paul Saari gave the financial reports dated May 31, 2013. It is estimated the county will have, on June 30, a cash balance of $3,043,129, minus the required three-twelfths reserve of $2,807,123 will leave a surplus at the end of the fiscal year of $236,007.

The Road Fund will have a surplus at the end of the fiscal year of $563,592. When asked why such a large surplus, Saari explained that the budget for this fiscal year presumed the Secure Rural Schools federal funding would expire and not be received. However, the funding was renewed.

The Corrections Fund is estimated to have a surplus of $102,028 at the end of the fiscal year.

Expenditures for the past two weeks were $883,604.77. Extraordinary expenses included $40,037 for the Business and Conference Center and $113,054 for a road project.

At the regular meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday, June 27, commissioners will choose two new members for the County Lodgers' Tax Committee, one of whom will be an at-large member, for which four people applied, and the other a tourism-related member, for which two people applied.

Commissioners will hear a quarterly Visitor Center/Tourism update from Cissy McAndrew, Southwest New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce executive director.

John Strand of Sun Zia will present an update on the transmission line project that will cross a portion of Grant County's panhandle. The county stands to receive taxes on the poles and lines that cross the county.

On the agenda to be approved is changing the non-client meal rate from $9 to $8 for Grant County Senior Programs, due to the large number of meals being served.

The transfer of a mini-16 brush truck from Sapillo Creek Volunteer Fire and Rescue to the Upper Mimbres Volunteer Fire Department will be considered.

Under contracts and agreements, commissioners will consider:
• An amendment to a services agreement with the Deer Oaks Employee Assistance Program for work/life, health and wellness prevention services. Saari explained the program, which costs the county $1.03 per employee per year and also covers their families, offers counseling, generally through a local provider. Help is anonymous and confidential;
• A joint-powers agreement with the town of Hurley for the county to aid in chip-sealing municipal streets; and
• A grant agreement with the Department of Finance and Administration Local Government Division for the Grant County DWI grant in the amount of $82,171

.Commissioners will consider a declaration of an emergency in Grant County due to the Silver fire. The declaration will allow access to federal funding.  "We are looking at the Royal John Mine Road, which has had a lot of traffic," Saari said. "Private owners impacted by the fire must apply individually. Emergency Management Officer Gilbert Helton has contacts for the applications. The BAER (Burned Area Emergency Response) Team will give an update at Thursday's meeting."

A resolution will rescind a wage freeze, as the Legislature this year passed a 1 percent raise for state employees at its most recent session.

A third resolution will amend the approved and adopted budget for this fiscal year, due to receipts of unbudgeted grants.

Three bids for requests for proposals will be awarded at the regular meeting. They include receipt of nine bids for the North Hurley Rural Utilities Service grant wastewater system improvements. "Ten houses are still on septic, but we will be looking at other options to help them," Saari said. County Commission Chariman Brett Kasten pointed out drainage issues in the area also need to be addressed.

A second bid for bank depository services will be awarded to Wells Fargo, the only responder.

The third bid will award inmate and health care services and healthcare management services to Health Care Partners for the Grant County Detention Center. Detention Center Administrator Mike Carrillo explained  the price of about $160,000 to $170,000 is based on the average populations in the facility. A nurse practitioner or physician's assistant will be there every day 8-10 hours during the times when there are usually more bookings and on call 24 hours a day. The company will bring in its own staff for the initial evaluation, but then plans to contract with local practitioners. Tele-psychology services will also be available.  Carrillo said the program would cut the number of transports required to take inmates to doctor's appointments, because the practitioner would be able to diagnose and treat, as well as evaluate the inmates when they are booked. "We hope to cut down significantly on medical costs."

The commissioners, as the Grant County Indigent and Health Care Claims Board, will consider 1383 claims for $562,776.08.

Saari said Gila Regional Medical Center has been told it should receive almost $7.5 million in sole community provider funding between July and December. No calculations have been made for after January 1, as by that time everyone in the state is supposed to be covered by the health care exchanges.

Kasten said he was told by Legislative Finance Committee members at their meeting in Silver City two weeks ago that they did not believe the hospitals should have to pay back what was a state error. "We will continue to fight to keep the hospital from having to pay back the funding."

During county reports, Carrillo said he is anticipating completion for review of the policies and procedures. He said he attended the New Mexico Association of Counties and met many other jail administrators. Mandatory training for his personnel will be offered by Luna County. Carrillo is requesting state funding of $100,000 to pay for the reintegration programs for three years to cut down recidivism. Two new hires will be undergoing a minimum of six weeks of field training before being assigned to the inmate areas. A training session for teachers and parents on gang-related issues is planned for mid-August. The average daily population is 86, comprised of 72 males and 14 females.

Randy Villa, newly named general services director, said he has visited with Senior Services and Corre Caminos. He also met with volunteer fire department chiefs, and he reported the new VFD maps are complete.

Sheriff Raul Villanueva said things have been fairly quiet for his department, and only a few fires have been reported, with most of the general public complying with the fire restrictions. "We are preparing for July 4th."

Saari said the town of Silver City is planning to hold its annual fireworks display on July 4th. "We've banned to the extent we can."

"But vendors will sell," Kasten noted. He said he, Saari and Villa are authorized to approve the use of chainsaws. "It's important to know who is applying," Villa said.

Villanueva said he had had officers staffing the road closure in New Mexico 152, due to the fire. "We are still assisting state police. We are getting compensated by the Forest Service."

Treasurer Steve Armendariz said the tax delinquent notices had been sent out, and many people have responded saying they had not received their second notice. "We send out only one bill in November, with two payment stubs for the first half and second half taxes."

He said the NMAC Treasurers' Affiliate would meet with the Property Tax Division to clarify interpretations and definitions in state statutes.  "The biggest issue is the definition of those on the delinquent tax list."

Newly appointed assessor, Mary Guthrie, said she has sent the certified values to the state and the county should receive the rates by the end of August. "Appraisers will also be working NM 152 toward U.S. 180 and then toward Silver City."

Clerk Robert Zamarripa said he has contacted the ballot vendor for the special election on the quality of life gross receipts tax increase, ending on Aug. 19. The vendor suggested the ballots be sent out three weeks ahead of the closing date for the election, so people don't set the ballots aside and forget to return them.

Commissioner Ron Hall said the schedule should be whatever is best for a good turnout.

Saari said at the recent NMAC meeting, the managers' affiliate brought up the members' issues with the Department of Finance and Administration and the excessive amount of time required to get contracts back to the counties.

He reported the Community Development Block Grant for which the county had applied had not been funded, although it met all criteria and some funding was not allocated. Saari said the front of the building construction is projected to be completed by the end of July.

Saari said a special meeting would be held July 3 at 9 a.m. to extend the drought emergency declaration and ordinance to continue the ban on most fireworks and the use of charcoal grills, as well as items that cause sparks.

Commissioner Gabriel Ramos asked for an update on Gila Regional Medical Center. "The board gave (Chief Executive Officer Brian) Bentley the authority to ask those who had been cut to 50 percent time, if they preferred to be RIFfed (reduction in force) so they can get unemployment benefits."

Ramos also asked that at the July 18 meeting the local sports champions in track and softball be recognized. "I would like for us also to look for grants to use the old jail for detox services." Kasten noted that Silver City Mayor James Marshall was also passionate about the issue.

Ramos said some folks renting the conference center are asking for a dance floor, because renting one is expensive.

Saari said purchasing is especially expensive and the plans for the renovation of the interior include a hard surface in the front part of the building. "We also need to put in the rules for rentals not to drive on the sidewalks. There are tire tracks on the brand-new sidewalks. Also no dragging of garbage and ruining the carpet or kicking holes in the walls.

Hall said at the NMAC meeting, the commissioners' affiliate had so many issues, they ran out of time, but did create a number of resolutions. "Our chair (Kasten) was named to the Region 5 executive committee." Hall noted that Cliff and Gila feel left out of the many activities taking place in Silver City and the Mining District, but few are held in Cliff-Gila.

"I am in favor of this special election and the slight increase in the gross receipts tax," Kasten said. "If we don't start taking care of ourselves, we will have to do without."

Ramos echoed the sentiment and said: "Our future depends on this getting passed."

"I definitely support it," Hall said.

Kasten asked the elected officials to give him their NMAC affiliate resolutions, "so I can represent you the best I can."

Live from Silver City

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