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County commissioners proclaim Chicano Music Project Week

Members of the Chicano Music Project executive committee received a proclamation from Grant County commissioners naming Aug. 25-Sept 1 as Grant County Chicano Music Week. From left are Commissioner Gabriel Ramos, committee member Sammy Silva, Commissioner Ron Hall, committee members Guadalupe Cano (in back), Melissa Acosta and Sylvia Ruela, Commission Chairman Brett Kasten and committee member Patricia Cano. (Photo by Mary Alice Murphy)

At the Grant County regular session Thursday, July 18, County Manager Jon Paul Saari requested the fulfillment agreement with the Southwest New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce for tourism-related services in the amount of $4,000 be removed from the agenda.

"Because it is less than $25,000, I can authorize the expenditure," Saari said. "I will take (Chairman Brett) Kasten's name off and replace it with mine and authorize it."

Commissioner Gabriel Ramos asked if the county had received a letter of support for the bond issue from the Green Chamber. Saari said a letter had been received, but the chamber had concerns and wanted more studies.

"I would rather not support any chamber that does not support the bond," Ramos replied.

Commissioner Ron Hall emphasized that if the gross receipts tax bond issue passes, a public process will be done on how to spend the money.

During public input, Gordon West, Grant County business owner and Green Chamber board member, said he had comments on the quality of life gross receipts tax bond issue.

"There are three swimming pools at Gila Regional Medical Center's Billy Casper Wellness Center," West pointed out. "They are being put in use as public pools by the Wellness Center. Another pool at Western New Mexico University will affect the revenue stream for Gila Regional, which is county-owned.

"The multiplex in Deming is a money pit," West said. "The county is supporting it and running it with county staff. It is not generating revenue. You should be doing an analysis on the multiplex."

Public hearing No. 1 addressed an ordinance to require a movement certificate and tax release prior to moving a manufactured home within Grant County and providing for penalties and enforcement for failure to comply.

Ramos congratulated Treasurer Steve Armendariz for working so hard on the issue. Commissioners approved it.

Public hearing No. 2 was an emergency hearing to determine if weather conditions have improved, in relation to proclamation declaring extreme or severe drought conditions in Grant County and the imposition of fireworks restrictions.

Saari said drought conditions still exist because of the number of years without significant rain, but after some rainfall, the ground is wet, so the fire problem has lessened. The U.S. Forest Service and New Mexico Forestry have lifted their restrictions.

The first resolution, which was approved, rescinded the proclamation. The second resolution, also approved, declared that an emergency ordinance declaring a fire hazard emergency and enacting measures to decrease the county's risk of injury to persons and property and substantial financial loss to the county and its residents as a result of fire, is no longer in effect.

Other resolutions approved by commissioners included:
• Authorization of 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;
• Declaration of an intent to consider the adoption of an ordinance authorizing issuance and sale of the $339,000 utility system revenue bonds for wastewater system improvement in the North Hurley area.  Saari said the loan is in addition to a $1 million grant received for the project. The loan, along with fees to the Bayard Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant, will be repaid by the users with their $30 a month charge. J&S Plumbing will do the construction. Kasten said the county is not taking any of the user fees, but is only the pass-through to pay off the loan;
• Authorization to enter into a cooperative agreement with the New Mexico Department of Transportation for $168,507, of which the county has a match of $42,127, which will be primarily in-kind services and materials, for improvements of roads within Grant County, including portions of Kirkland Road, Cottage San Road, Ridge Road and Whiskey Creek Airport Road;
• Authorization of a cooperative agreement with the NMDOT under the Schools Bus Routes program for $73,720, of which the county's match is $18,430, for improvements on portions of Little Walnut Road and Ridge Road;
• Authorization of a cooperative agreement with the NMDOT under the Coop Projects for $71,381, of which the county's match is $17,845, for improvements of a low-water crossing near the McCauley Road and Bald Knoll Road intersection and improvements on portions of Callecita de Oro and Galaz Street; and
• Authorization of Grant County to absorb 75 percent of the Public Employees Retirement Association Police Member Coverage Plan 5 and of the PERA General Member Coverage Plan 2 for other county employees. This amount includes the county's share of the increase of 1.5 percent of the contributions.

Commissioners approved the financial expenditure report of $1,736,907.89, which included a $68,000 payment for construction at the Business and Conference Center and $76,000 for the computer data processing annual maintenance fee.

A proclamation naming Aug. 26-Sept 1 as Grant County Chicano Music week, was read by Kasten, approved by commissioners and presented to members of the executive committee organizing the event for Aug. 30-Sept. 1. Project committee chairwoman Patricia Cano said many former area band members were coming from as far away as Houston, Texas. Ramos said he would like to give $1,000 of his discretionary funding to the project. Kasten and Hall also did so.

An agreement with the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department for a juvenile justice continuum of services in the amount of $46,600 was approved.

Commissioners, as the Grant County Indigent Hospital and Health Care Claims Board, approved 907 in-county claims for $550,384.50 and 8 out-of-county claims for $50,964.42. The out-of-county claims are paid through the Grant County Indigent Fund.

Saari explained to the Beat that the sole community provider funding, which funds the in-county claims, is based on the previous year's claims and amounts. "When we approve them, we send them to the New Mexico Human Services Department to show how many people qualify and for how much for next year's funding. The hospital is supposed to get the funding on a quarterly basis." He also said it is his understanding that HSD and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare came to an agreement that will release funding for the past quarters that were not paid. About $7 million will be sent for the past quarters, but the state has requested the return of $2.3 million, which Sen. Howie Morales continues to fight, saying, if the mistake was the state's miscalculation, the local hospitals should not have to repay the money. For the rest of this year, July 1-Dec. 31, the hospital is supposed to have another $7 million sent down, according to Saari.

During county reports, Sheriff Raul Villanueva said he called up additional resources for help on Tuesday to address an incident over the weekend. "We want to thank the resources for helping us in apprehending this person, who was considered armed and dangerous. There were a lot of concerned citizens in Pinos Altos. I requested Reverse 911 calls be made to the area and they were. We located and apprehended the individual."

Kasten said it appeared to be a well run and professional operation. Hall concurred and said it was good to get the person off the streets. Ramos said: "Well done."

Saari said he would put together an agreement on the Chicano Music Project funding. He said work continued on the front of the building (the Administration Center). "We found some of what we thought were dead water lines, but they weren't, so we have killed a section of line. One side was done with no problems. The other side is a treasure hunt."

Kasten asked when the county would start construction of the sheriff's vaults. Saari explained that at the state level, all capital outlay funding had been frozen for anyone with audit findings. "Almost everyone has audit findings," he said. "Including most state agencies," Kasten added.

Saari and County Planner Anthony Gutierrez will attend the Community Development Block Grant implementation meeting to find out why Grant County was not funded and why not all funding was expended.

Kasten reported that he had received a call from General Services Department Cabinet Secretary Ed Burckle wanting to set up a meeting to talk about Fort Bayard. Saari and Kasten were to make a call after the meeting.

The meeting schedule for the rest of July will involve a special meeting at 1 p.m. Wednesday, July 24, to approve the budget. August meetings will include a special meeting to canvass the gross receipts bond tax issue at 9 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 22, and work session and regular meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 27, and Thursday, Aug. 29. These will be the only meetings for August.

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