At left, Commissioner Ron Hall, left, Commissioner Gabriel Ramos, second from right, and Commission Chairman Brett Kasten, at right, present the Pro Bono proclamation to Tim Aldrich, second from left, attorney with Children, Youth and Families Department of the 6th Judicial District. (Photo by Mary Alice Murphy)

Grant County commissioners, at a special meeting Friday, October 4, approved two proclamations and named members to an Eco Watershed Planning Group, and held a public hearing.

The first proclamation named Sept. 15-Oct. 15 as National Hispanic Heritage Month.

The second proclamation gave the week of Oct. 14-18 the designation of Pro Bono Week.

Tim Aldrich, attorney with Children, Youth and Families Department in the 6th Judicial District and co-chairman of the pro bono services to be offered Oct. 17 at the Grant County Veterans' Memorial Business and Conference Center, said Legal Aid services had been substantially cut, and the day of the meeting was the last day for most on staff.

"There are no income limits to Pro Bono Day," Aldrich said. "Anyone can come and talk to attorneys representing family law, immigration issues and other legal issues. We will have about 17 attorneys present throughout the day."

Commissioner Ron Hall thanked Aldrich and the other attorneys who are participating.

"It is our responsibility," Aldrich said.

Commissioner Gabriel Ramos said the creation of the Eco Watershed Planning Group was to make sure the county's communities near the forest have protection. He cited such communities as Pinos Altos, Cliff, Hanover and Redrock as needing the protection.

"They have a lot of risk of fire," Ramos said. "We want to protect the environment and use thinning to protect the watershed. We can put in for funds and grants that the Forest Service cannot apply for. We will help the areas and the Forest Service."

Commission Chairman Brett Kasten pointed out the document naming the applicants for the group said four should be chosen. "These are six excellent applicants. Will the group put together a job description?

"That's the plan," Ramos said. "After the group is formed, then we will pass a resolution. It's fine with me if you name these six individuals. I would be No. 7, and there would be two representatives from the Forest Service, active or retired. There is a lot of good Forest Service knowledge out there."

The wording was changed to allow the six applicants to become part of the original planning group. They include Gordon West, Alex Thal, Ralph D. Pope, Glenn Griffin, Allyson Siwik and Joseph Mondragon.

Hall seconded the motion made by Ramos and asked for discussion. "Was this advertised, so people had a possibility to apply?"

"It is not yet a regular committee," Saari said. "We are trying to build this group, so through discussions with various people we wanted a broad selection of expertise. These are for one-year terms, and after one year, we will advertise for members."

Kasten said the name of the group might change by the end of the year.

"To be frank, I don't think the Forest Service is doing justice to the community," Ramos said. "This will make it possible for us to apply for grants."

Hall clarified the group is in the planning stage, and after a year, the positions will be advertised to give others the opportunity to apply, as well as to those already participating.

The next portion of the special meeting was a preliminary hearing to approve one of the preliminary steps to creating a road improvement assessment district in the Viva Santa Rita subdivision to improve Miners Legend and Kneeling Nun roads. The subdivision has 26 lots and is about 5 miles east of Hanover, New Mexico.

Dolores Dominguez, county ordinance officer who has worked with the residents and has compiled the necessary documents, explained the commissioners, according to statute, may create the improvement district, select the type of materials and method of construction and proceed with the construction. The Commission may pay for the cost or assess the cost against those benefiting tracts or parcels of land or impose an improvement district property tax. In this improvement district, county staff proposes that the cost of materials be paid by the lot owners and the cost to be assessed against the landowners. The county will participate in providing labor and equipment for the placement of the materials.

Lonnie Bauernfeind, subdivision resident and spokesperson, thanked the county for working with the residents.

Kasten apologized for it taking so long, but Bauernfeind said it has been a learning process for him, and he knows that the process is required by state law. "We're enthusiastic that it is going to happen." Other residents in the audience applauded his comments.

Saari said the residents have an idea of what their assessments will be, but they could go up or down.

Bauernfeind said the residents had not heard from five landowners who live out of the area, but "for the 80 percent of the residents, we've kept them up to speed with the steps needed, and yes, we're fine with the assessments."

Saari said the assessments are just an estimate, until the county has firm numbers. "Next is the estimate hearing," he said. "Road Superintendent Earl Moore usually estimates safely."

 Dominguez said she anticipates the estimate will stay within the 5 percent range up or down.

County Attorney Abigail Robinson said the previous day she had sketched out the necessary steps. "There are 13, and we're only on No. 3, but we have to follow the process correctly to protect the county and you."

After approval of the district, the meeting was adjourned.

Live from Silver City

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