Proclamation for Walk for Heroes Appreciation Days presented to members of Marine Corps League Gaffney-Oglesby Detachment 1328.

Grant County commissioners, at their one regular meeting for the month of August, held Tuesday, Aug. 27, had an extensive agenda to address.

During public input, Gary Stailey,  Grant County citizen, spoke as a supporter of Gila Regional Medical Center, as the most valuable county-owned asset.

"Yes, the county's residents are also important, but the county does not own them. In fact, they own the county," Stailey said. We elected you to represent our interests. The hospital is critical to our future. It is often the top priority of someone considering relocating to the area, and also when someone decides to stay in the area.

"The hospital must remain solvent," Stailey said. "For those having to travel for treatment, it's no fun. It was a huge relief for many, including some of my family members, when cancer services began to be offered here.

"I ask you to carefully consider those you appoint as GRMC Board of Trustees members," Stailey said.  "Hear the vital information in the report from GRMC. It's especially good in this venue, because Community Access Television of Silver City sends the information through television to many more citizens."

Stailey asked that commissioners allow a standing GRMC report at every county meeting and encouraged CATS to record the board meetings.

"We must do everything we can to make sure the hospital stays alive and well," Stailey said. "And although it is politically incorrect to say this, I pray for the success of the hospital."

The next public input came from Janey Katz, who along with her partner, Suzi Calhoun, has been a 13-year resident and property owner in Grant County.

"Yesterday, we went to the County Clerk to ask for a marriage license," Katz said. "The clerk and his staff were very friendly and nice, but Robert Zamarripa said he has to get permission from somewhere else before he can issue licenses. A state judge in Bernalillo County has said that it is unconstitutional to deny a license for same-sex marriages. I want you to be the heroes and not wait for a court to tell you it's OK."

Next, Frances Gonzales, county resident, commended the Clerk's Office staff for "an awesome job on the special election and the quick issuance of the results. I also commend Chairman Brett Kasten and Manager Jon Saari for participating in all the forums that offered both sides of the issue."

Sarah Sayles, Grant County Extension interim agriculture and 4-H officer, said summer is 4-H season, so "we've been very busy and involved in a lot of contests."

"In May, we talked with the 4-Hers about issues, such as many of them focusing too closely, so it was hard to expand the group. The kids came up with an event, which we held earlier this summer," Sayles said. "We invited anyone who wanted to come to an event. We had 36 kids, two-thirds of whom were already in 4-H. The others became interested.  This past weekend, we had representatives from New Mexico State University, including President Gary Carruthers and about 100 people from all over the state come to Silver City to meet our 4-Hers and to see what's going on. Many came just to see what 4-H is doing. We are working hard to keep Extension relevant."

Carol Morrison, a county resident and member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, which supports "the inherent worth and dignity of every individual," said: "I stand in support of Janey Katz and Suzi Calhoun, in their wish to marry, and in support of equal rights and love."

Later in the meeting, during county reports, officials and commissioners commented on several of the afore-mentioned issues.

County Manager Jon Paul Saari gave the expenditure report since July, with an amount of $2,616,391.96 having been expended.

"There were several payrolls," Saari explained. "We had a workman's comp payment of about $225,000, about $116,000 to Sapillo Creek Volunteer Fire and Rescue for equipment, $73,000 to outside contractors for indigent fund services, and $166,280.68 on the fair barn construction."

Saari said the fair barn construction was coming along. "Once the electrician puts the lights in, we can start moving things in. It looks like we can meet the deadline for the fair."

Commissioners approved a proclamation naming Sept. 13 and 14 "Walk for the Heroes Appreciation Days. The walk will begin at 11 p.m. and end at Diaz Farms about 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, with participants walking from Hurley to Deming. Randy Hernandez, administrative assistant, read the proclamation, which is a fundraiser for the Marine Corps League Gaffney-Oglesby Detachment 1328. The James H. Pirtle Walk of 36.5 miles was established by Michael Lopez, to honor the fact he can walk again, after being told he would never walk again, and to honor the area Gold Star mothers, who have lost children in service to the country, according to Larry Himes, Detachment 1328 commandant. He encouraged everyone to participate, even if it's for only a few miles.

Charles Kelly, GRMC Board of Trustees chairman, presented an update on the hospital. He introduced Interim Chief Executive Officer Brian Cunningham and encouraged the public to attend the board meeting at noon, Friday, Aug. 30. "I appreciate the statement from Gary Stailey. The board has not met since all of our changes came, but I can tell you that the tension at the hospital has dropped."

Saari said if the public begins to attend the board meetings, because the boardroom is small, the trustees were welcome to hold their meetings at the Grant County Administration Center.

Commissioner Gabriel Ramos thanked Kelly for "leading the charge on the hospital."

Cunningham said he appreciated the commissioners being actively involved in the community, especially in the hospital.

"I thank Kelly and the board for their vision and having confidence in me and other internal talent at the hospital," Cunningham said. "I'm an 11-year veteran of GRMC and am working as the interim CEO. We know people have their perspectives and concerns about the hospital. It takes a community and local officials to make us a success."

He explained that, because no board meetings had been held since the last update, he would have more detail after this week's meeting.

"The past three weeks have been very busy," Cunningham said. "Four of our senior leadership resigned. It has provided an opportunity for many others to serve at the next level of leadership. For the last position—chief nursing officer—we have seven internal candidates and are interviewing. By early next week, we will have replaced, with internal candidates, those who resigned.

"Another area of concern has been the 67 employees impacted by the 50 percent cuts," he continued. "The chief financial officer and I have met with all the departments' leadership to determine what is best based on work load and needs. The information will be brought to the board for finalization. There has to be the amount of staff needed for quality care.

"On the patient care side, we held a grand opening for the cardiologist's office," Cunningham said. "Dr. (Norman) Ratliff is already incredibly busy. We have a huge need for his services. And a general surgeon, who was here before, Dr. Wendler will begin Sept. 1."

Ramos thanked Cunningham for his hard work to suit the needs of the hospital and the patients. "I think things are looking up."

Commissioner Ron Hall thanked Cunningham for his transparency and thanked Kelly for his work, also. "I look forward to hearing from you on a monthly basis."

Commission Chairman Brett Kasten said he believes a monthly report would suffice, with fresh information each time. "Things are getting better," he said to Cunningham. "You and I had the conversation about 'people first.' And thanks to Charles Kelly for taking on the job."

The next agenda item concerned the Loma Verde Subdivision road improvement project. "I gave Lonnie Sandoval (the subdivision representative) the subdivision regulations ordinance, the maps and the paperwork needed for the road dedication," County Planner Anthony Gutierrez said. "I explained to him that the ordinance for dedication requires signatures from all property owners adjacent to or abutting the roadways."

County Attorney Abby Robinson explained that two ongoing road development projects differ. "With Loma Verde, we are doing it out of order. The road was never dedicated, so we need to do that first."

Gutierrez said there is always confusion about the statues, with two-thirds of property owners' signatures needed for a road assessment district, but 100 percent of owners' signatures required for a road dedication.

Kasten said the 100 percent made sense to him, because "you can't give away somebody else's property."

Saari said the two ongoing projects are different in that Viva Santa Rita is only an assessment district, but for Loma Verde, "we're stuck trying to get 100 percent of the signatures for the roadway dedication. We've done a lot of the work for them. Usually the residents are required to do the work, but we're trying to get it done by helping them."

Commissioners approved an application from the Santa Rita Volunteer Fire Department for Fire Protection Funds in the amount of $55,000 for this year. The department will purchase bunker gear, wildland fire gear and radios, and will pay a 20 percent match from funding it has.

The Food Policy Council has requested a bylaws change. The council wants to increase the number of members from its present nine to a minimum of nine and a maximum of 13, because of increased interest in people wanting to serve on the council. Hall asked if the council were a part of or duplicative of what the Grant County Community Health Council does. Gutierrez, who is a member of the Food Policy Council, said the only link to the Health Council is participation by members of the Healthy Kids, Healthy Community program, overseen by the Health Council, but that there was no duplication of efforts. The change was approved.

The county is putting in a Federal Aviation Administration grant request for $462,146 for Phase III reconstruction of the public apron at the Grant County Airport. The FAA will fund 95 percent of the cost, with the state and county matching equal amounts of the remaining 5 percent.

Contracts, agreements, resolutions, indigent fund payments and county reports will be covered in future article(s).

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