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Grant County Commissioners approve agenda items, meeting part 2

The rest of the agenda items of the Grant County Commission regular meeting of Aug. 27 will be covered in this article.

Commissioners approved all items detailed below.

Contracts and agreements included a subgrant agreement with the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security to pay one-half of the part-time County Emergency Planner's salary, in the amount of $42,913.72.

A consent agenda item covering various aspects of the Grant County Senior Services agreement with the North Central New Mexico Economic Development District Non-Metro Area Agency on Aging, including funding for direct purchase of services vendor agreement for $448,210; a nutrition services incentive program agreement for $42,409; a senior employment program agreement, which includes paying close to a dozen senior employees for $43,409; and the required assurances; certification regarding lobbying; and certification regarding debarment, suspension and other responsibility matters was approved.

James Baldwin, county resident, asked why the North Central New Mexico Economic Development District was overseeing the area's Senior Services, and if there was a Southern portion of the agency.

County Manager Jon Paul Saari said the North Central Council of Governments is the fiscal agent for all senior programs throughout the state.

Baldwin asked about the lobbying, to which Saari replied that the item certifies that none of the money goes to lobbying.

An agreement with the Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments for annual membership dues and services for $5,250 was approved.

Commissioner Ron Hall said the area is fortunate to have Priscilla Lucero as its COG director. "What would we do without her?"  

Commission Chairman Brett Kasten concurred and said: "By far, we have the best COG director in the state."

Baldwin asked what counties were included in the COG. Kasten said it was the four-county area of Luna, Hidalgo, Grant and Catron, as well as the municipalities and school districts.

Baldwin said the state also has the New Mexico Association of Counties. "How much financial burden is that one?"

Saari said it was about $18,500 a year.

Baldwin asked how long the county has been a member of COG, and that the NMAC is a lobbying group. "How many lobbying groups do we belong to?"

Kasten said the COG is not a lobbying group, and Saari said the county receives its insurance through the NMAC, as well as training for employees.

"Of the $5,250, is it all property taxes?" Baldwin asked.

"It comes from the General Fund," Kasten replied.

Commissioners approved several resolutions, which include:
• Authorization of Grant County to enter into agreements with the North Central New Mexico Economic Development District Non-Metro Area Agency on Aging, as listed above in a consent agenda item;
• Ratification of an agreement with the Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments for annual membership dues and services for Fiscal Year 2014;
• An amendment to the ratification of Section 47.3 of the Bargaining Unit Contract. It addresses the uniform allowance, which was dispersed this July, and the next allowance will be in December 2014;
• A loan resolution authorizing and providing for the incurrence of indebtedness for the purpose of providing a portion of the cost of acquiring, constructing, enlarging, improving and/or extending its wastewater system in the North Hurley Service area;
• Budget adjustments for fiscal year 2014 for grants received after the deadline for submission of the final budget. The document sets up budgets for the $1,030,363 increase and breaks out the usage of the funds;
• The Treasurer's fee schedule, to certify those listed in a recently approved ordinance; and
• Authorization for the county to enter into a cooperative agreement with the New Mexico Department of Transportation to install low water crossings with footings and drainage improvements on Mahogney Drive and Little Walnut Road.

The commissioners also approved a resolution supporting the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project to provide capacity for the area's renewable energy projects. John Strand, SunZia representative, said he is optimistic the record of decision on the route will be resolved by mid-September. The problems are with the military, because of the route crossing White Sands Missile Range. Kasten pointed out that Grant County is blessed with ample sunshine and wind, but not enough people to use any energy that might be created with them. "We need a transmission line to the people who can use it."

Strand agreed and said the Deming Power Plant is at only 50 percent capacity. The transmission line will help with the electric grid, and the oil-and-gas industry will also be enhanced with more available power.

"Where the line will cross Grant County in the panhandle is one of the best spots in the state for sun and wind energy," Kasten said. Strand agreed.

Another resolution approved was support for the Southwest New Mexico Energy and Green Jobs Task Force's Regional Strategic Plan for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Associated Job Creation. Saari said the task force was created when Sen. Jeff Bingaman was in office to keep the area sustainable.

"Anthony and I were talking about the strategic plan and the Office of Sustainability," Saari said. "In my opinion, and this is only my opinion, Grant County was not represented as strongly as Silver City. Silver City got a solar array for its wastewater treatment plant and we got a request to change out our light bulbs.

[Editor's Note: Bayard Mayor Charles Kelly said Bayard got the same request about the light bulbs.]

"Because we want to make sure that all entities get equal treatment, we added some language to the task force's strategic plan," Saari continued.

The last resolution approved was to give raises to the chief deputies of the elected officials.

"The Commission prior to this one increased the salaries of elected officials, but did not increase the salaries of the chief deputies," Saari said. "I think the last time their salaries were increased was in 2006. Although traditionally, the deputies have received salaries at 95 percent of those of the elected officials, we are raising their salaries to 90 percent of the electeds. "

Treasurer Steve Armendariz protested that it was only fair to continue the tradition of 95 percent. "At the time of the raise for the electeds, their salaries were raised to the cap. The Legislature had increased the maximums, but the governor vetoed them. This year, the Legislature again raised the maximums, and the governor approved them, so our elected officials are not at their cap."

Commissioner Ron Hall said he felt that, with the county coming out of recession, the 90 percent is fair.

"I promoted the 95 percent," Kasten said, "but I think 90 percent is fair."

As the Grant County Indigent and Health Plan Claims Board, commissioners approved the 1628 in-county claims for $560,105.80, and 15 out-of-county claims for $26,355.59.

Kasten said he had spoken to Sen. Howie Morales, who told him he was comfortable that the hospital would get its $2 million back.

The commissioners also approved an indigent burial claim for Frank Owsley.

After reconvening as the Grant County Board of Commissioners, they called for county reports, which will be covered in a future article.

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