By Charlie McKee
In opening the Silver City Town Council meeting on Tuesday evening, September 10, 2013, Mayor James Marshall announced that Sam Ojinaga, Deputy Director of the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration (DFA), had written a letter to Marshall commending the Silver City Town Clerk, Ann Mackie, for her outstanding performance. His letter of August 16 praised Mackie for going above and beyond the call of duty in assisting the new town clerks of the Village of Wagon Mound, NM. Mackie exhibited consummate professionalism, as well as generosity of service, in providing guidance to the small town's staff on proper procedures and guidelines for managing council meetings, town budgets, and the like. In response to the DFA letter and in recognition of Mackie's unflagging excellence and commitment in serving the Town of Silver City and its community, the Mayor, Town Manager Alex Brown, and the Town Council presented Mackie with an Exemplary Service Award as of Sept. 10, 2013. Mackie stated to this reporter that she felt the request for assistance to the staff of Wagon Mound had been an opportunity for her to "give back" to others less experienced in the field of municipal management, as she had received guidance and support in the past when she started as Town Clerk. Mackie has recently completed her certification as Master Clerk and will also begin a new role as Vice President of the New Mexico Municipal Clerks and Finance Officers Association in October of this year, in addition to her Town Clerk duties.
During the Public Input portion of the meeting, the Town Council heard praise for the efforts of the Office of Sustainability and the Animal Control Department. The praise was counter-balanced by complaints regarding speeding drivers and loud booming music, which continues to be an "out of control nuisance" on Bullard Street in the downtown area. The Council was urged to address this continuing public nuisance issue, which was described as "one known individual being allowed to control three neighborhoods," by following Albuquerque's example of empowering neighborhoods to deal with the problem.
After Public Input concluded, Councilor Mike Morones announced that The Volunteer Center will be having a "work party" from 8:00 am to 1:30 pm on Saturday, Sept. 14, to build a new patio at The Commons Center for Food Security and Sustainability. Anyone wishing to help and to learn more about The Commons and its service to the community was urged to join the effort on Saturday.
Town Manager Alex Brown then informed the Council during the Reports portion of the meeting that DFA has approved the Town of Silver City's final budget for fiscal year 2013 to 2014. He also asked the public to inform his office if anyone has difficulty obtaining access to cable services from Comcast. The Town has entered into a new franchise agreement with Comcast and needs input from residents regarding any problems that may arise.
During the Public Hearing portion of the meeting, the Council approved two Transfers of Ownership and Location of Liquor License #0735. The two transfers allowed Walgreen Co. at 100 N. Rosedale Road to transfer its existing license to a store in Las Cruces and acquire Liquor License #0735 for its Silver City location.
Considerable discussion then ensued during the New Business portion of the Town Council meeting regarding the approval or disapproval of the Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan (ICIP) for Fiscal Years 2015 through 2019. Jaime Embick, Silver City Town Planner, informed the Council that Brown's attendance to explain the numerous projects on the ICIP list at the public input meeting held in August was extremely helpful. The ICIP list is required by the New Mexico State Legislature in order for any projects to be considered for funding by the state. Both Brown and Embick explained that the prioritized list is a working, "living" document, showing projects in process and proposed, funded and non-funded. They proposed the possibility of using the public input meetings next year in a two-phased manner: the first to gather information from citizens regarding critical project priorities; and the second, for Brown to review and explain the subsequently prioritized list. Brown also suggested that future public input meetings might be categorized by topic, e.g. public safety vs. public works.
During the discussion about the prioritized ICIP project list, Brown requested that Item 9, the "Purchase of Two Ambulances" be moved up to Item 2 in the priority list, moving the projects beneath it down in priority. He explained that obtaining funding for this project is critical to public safety, because the Town's existing ambulances are old and in deteriorating condition. Brown recently discovered that the legislature in Santa Fe would not consider any project for funding if it is not in the top three listed on the ICIP, hence the urgent need to move the ambulances to the Item 2 position.
Walter Szymanski and Shelby Hallmark both appeared before the Council as concerned citizens to comment on the ICIP process from different viewpoints. Szymanski asked what role the public has in setting priorities for projects such as sidewalks, i.e. who gets to choose which sidewalks get fixed or installed? Hallmark's question was at the other end of the spectrum, asking why "big ticket" items, such as those in the recent Grant County election, were not addressed? In answer to both, Brown explained that the ICIP prioritized project list is required by the state in order for any funding to be approved for Silver City's capital improvement projects. He noted that the list is an ongoing exercise in juggling the urgency of projects (as in the case of public safety), the size of project vs. monies available, the sources of funding (e.g. state, outside grants, public/private partnerships, and town revenues), maintenance issues, etc. The effort requires constant judgment calls and changes in priorities based upon weighing all of these factors.
Marshall then explained that the idea of convening a "Dream Team" of citizens in an advisory role to look at major new projects has been proposed and that it would be a joint effort of the tri-cities and Grant County. Morones noted as well that the ICIP already contains "big ticket" items that have been raised as top priorities for the Town in other plans, such as the Downtown Action Plan, and were formulated as a result of public input over the past decade.
After the extensive discussion regarding the ICIP list and agreeing to move the "Purchase of Two Ambulances" project to Item 2 in Fiscal Year 2015, the Council voted to approve Resolution No. 2013-34, adopting the 2015 to 2019 Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan.
In other New Business, the Council approved the Mayor's appointment of Carmon L. Steven to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
The meeting was then adjourned.