Two public hearings will be held at the beginning of the Grant County Commission's regular meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday, July 18, at the Administration Center.

The first public hearing will address the adoption of an ordinance requiring a movement certificate and tax release prior to moving a manufactured home within Grant County. It will provide for penalties and enforcement for failure to comply.

The second public hearing will determine whether weather conditions have improved enough to rescind the proclamation declaring extreme or severe drought conditions and imposition of fireworks restrictions, which was renewed on July 3.

County Manager Jon Paul Saari noted that although the drought level is down from exceptional to extreme, it would require lots of extra rain for many years to resolve the drought. However, recent rains have diminished the likelihood for fires.

Commissioner Ron Hall noted that the rains have been spotty. General Services Director and Fire Management Officer Randy Villa said, at first, the rains were spotty, but by now, it has rained pretty much throughout the county. "The Forest Service and State Forestry have lifted their restrictions, and Silver City is looking at lifting its restrictions. We should all be in agreement on the issue."

Resolutions were moved on the regular meeting agenda, to right after the public hearings, so the drought conditions proclamation can be rescinded and the emergency ordinance related to the fire hazard emergency can be declared no longer in effect.

A resolution, if approved, will authorize the execution and delivery of a loan agreement and intercept agreement with the New Mexico Finance Authority for the purpose of financing the cost of purchasing a Class A fire pumper for use by the Santa Rita Volunteer Fire Department. The payments will be made by intercept from the department's state fire funding.

Also to be considered by the commissioners is adoption of an ordinance authorizing issuance and sale of the $339,000 utility system revenue bond for waste water system improvements in the North Hurley area. In addition, the project has received a $1 million grant from the USDA Rural Utilities Service. The loan and monthly fees to the Bayard Regional Wastewater System will be paid by charges to the residents who benefit from having their wastewater put into a sewer system. Their monthly charges stand to rise to about $30 monthly.

"In addition, we will have a back up of major parts in stock," Saari said. "Grant County laid out $112,000 for pre-engineering and engineering and the loan will pay us back."

County Planner Anthony Gutierrez said the loan would close in September.

Three resolutions will authorize the county to enter into cooperative agreements with the New Mexico Department of Transportation for improvements to roads within Grant County.

The first of the three will address portions of Kirkland Road, Cottage San Road, Ridge Road, and Whiskey Creek Airport Road for $168,507. The second, under the NMDOT School Bus Routes program, will do improvements on Little Walnut Road and Ridge Road for $73,720. The third under the NMDOT Coop Project will address a low water crossing at the McCauley Road and Bald Knoll Road intersection, and improvements at Callecita de Oro and Laguna de Oso.

Commissioners will address the expenditure report of $1,736,907.89 for the month. Saari explained that many departments try to spend down their funding at the end of the fiscal year, plus $68,000 was spent on the County Business and Conference Center.

Saari said Gila Regional Medical Center has received a bill to pay back to the state $2.5 million of what the hospital received in sole community provider funding. "Sen. (Howie) Morales had said the state made the miscalculation and should be responsible for payment. We haven't paid it back yet. We'll see."

Hall said it would be a double hit to the hospital, with the large repayment, plus the cuts in funding it will have to bear.

Saari said Morales was still fighting. "The state is trying to collect $21 million from public, non-state-owned hospitals, but not the approximately same amount from the state hospitals."

Under new business, commissioners will declare Aug. 25-Sept. 1 as "Grant County Chicano Music Week," in preparation for the Chicano Music Festival from Aug. 30 to Sept. 1.

Commissioners will consider two agreements. One is with the NM Children, Youth and Families Department for the Restorative Justice program for $46,600. The second is a fulfillment agreement with the Southwest New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce for tourism-related services for $4,000.

"It's the same funding we used to do with the Silver City-Grant County Chamber of Commerce," Saari said. "The Lodgers' Tax Committee asked that the funding be transferred to the Silver City Arts and Cultural District, which has turned it over to the Green Chamber."

Saari said he had met the previous evening with a candidate for SC-GC Chamber director. "He was very knowledgeable and had been in a similar situation with building trust for the chamber. If things work out, we might look back to working with the regular Chamber of Commerce."

Commissioners, as the Grant County Indigent Hospital and Health Care Claims Board, will consider 915 claims for $601,348.92. Eight of the claims for $50,964.42 will be paid out of county indigent funds.

Saari said items would be added to the regular meeting agenda, including approval of the union contract, if the union members approve it in time.

Another item would be approval of the county continuing to pay 75 percent of Public Employees Retirement Association contributions, even with a 1½ percent rise in rates.

The county will hold only one set of meetings in August on Aug. 27 and 29. A special session on Aug. 22 will likely be required to canvass the bond election results and approve the North Hurley bond.

In addition, the county has been in discussion with a group that would do a security profile for the county. The company would provide year-round information technology work, and would come down one day a week for eight hours, but would be on call the rest of the time.

"They sent a proposal," Saari said. "We budgeted for professional services, with funding in the Planning Department. It would be $50,000 a year and they can access our systems remotely."

Commission Chairman Brett Kasten asked how the website was coming along.

"Next week we should receive a link so we can make recommendations on changes," Saari said. "Each department will have its own page and can update it themselves. Hosting would be $100 a month and there would be very tight security."

County reports will be covered in a subsequent article.

Live from Silver City

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