By Charlie McKee
In two of its deliberations on Tuesday evening, Oct. 8, 2013, the Silver City Town Council focused on the issue of public safety with respect to fire and police protection.
The first deliberation during the Public Hearing portion of the meeting was that of the approval/disapproval of an extension of the Town's water service outside Town limits to serve four undeveloped residential lots north of Oakwood Estates. Robert Esqueda, Director of the Town's Utilities Department, and Pamela Weber of Weber Engineering, who conducted the impact study, testified that the extension of the water and sewer connections will make the lots more saleable, and looping of the extensions will improve "fire flows" (water flow out of fire hydrants) in the Oakwood area. They noted that the area's average water pressure is currently at 237 gallons per minute (GPM), whereas the standard fire flow water pressure is 500 GPM. This fact sparked considerable discussion and questions from the Council regarding the potential impact on the ability to protect current and future residents in the event of fire. Esqueda and Town Manager Alex Brown assured the Mayor and Council that the water service extension would not in any way diminish the flow of water from fire hydrants in the event of fire and would, in fact, improve water flow. Brown noted that, because the extension is outside Town limits, Tyrone Fire Department is first responder in that area, and their trucks carry their own water supply. He also stated that Silver City would be second responder in that area, and its fire trucks are equipped with the capability to increase the water flow out of any given fire hydrant. In addition, the Town's water system itself can be adjusted to provide increased water flow to any given area of the Town. Upon these assurances and after specifying that the applicant would be responsible for all costs associated with the water service extension and that he/she would comply with Chapter 54, Article 4 of the Municipal Code, the Council voted to approve the water service extension.
The second deliberation regarding public safety issues occurred during the New Business portion of the Town Council meeting. This deliberation and lengthy discussion concerned the approval/disapproval of Notice of Intent (NOI) Ordinance No. 1225. The ordinance would reauthorize the July 2004 ordinance, which implemented a 1/8% increase in the gross receipts tax (GRT) to be used specifically for public safety, i.e. the Silver City Police and Fire Departments. The prior 2004 ordinance was approved with a 10-year "sunset" clause, hence the requirement to reapprove or disapprove the continuation of the tax with voter approval now. Town Manager Brown explained that, since 2004, these GRT funds have provided the Town with four Police Officers, 17 police cars, one Firefighter, and a ladder fire truck. He stated that, if the new ordinance to continue this GRT allocation is not approved by voters, police and firefighter staffing would have to be reduced and the safety of citizens would be jeopardized. Brown also explained that the new ordinance specifically designates this portion of the GRT to be earmarked in perpetuity for public safety (i.e. police and fire departments) use only, so that future Councils would not be required to reapprove this allocation of funds. When local citizen Walter Szymanski queried the Council and staff as to why no sunset clause was incorporated in this ordinance, Mayor James Marshall replied that this allocation of funds is "critical to protecting the life, safety, and health of our citizens" and that "the responsibility for public safety falls on us." Lastly, Brown emphasized that this is not an increase in tax; it is a continuation of an existing allocation of funds. The Council then voted to approve NOI Ordinance No. 1225.
Continuing the theme of Public Safety, Mayor James Marshall proclaimed Oct. 6 through 12, 2013, "Fire Prevention Week" with emphasis on using caution in the kitchen to reduce house fires and urging citizens to support the Silver City Fire Department in its efforts to protect lives in our community.
During the Public Input portion of the meeting, concerned citizen Larry McLadd appeared before the Council to state that nothing has been done to curtail the noise and nuisance problem of extremely loud, racing vehicles on South Bullard Street. He stated that neither his letter to the Mayor and Council in May 2013 nor his appearance at a Council meeting in June 2013 (GCB article: http://www.grantcountybeat.com/index.php/news/news-articles/10937-silver-city-residents-to-pay-higher-property-tax-and-water-rates-to-offset-reduction-in-grt) have had any effect. McLadd begged the Council for help in combating the issue and one vehicle owner in particular, even offering to personally pay for a speed bump outside his residence on South Bullard.
During Council Comments, Councilor Cynthia Bettison reported that she had attended the Santa Fe ceremony in which the Mimbres Region Arts Council (MRAC) was presented the Gorvernor's Excellence in the Arts award. She stated that numerous attendees made a point to tell her how fortunate Silver City and Grant County are to have Faye McCalmont as Director of MRAC, as her leadership clearly has resulted in such prestigious recognition. Bettison also announced that the film X Species is being filmed in Silver City over the next month and is already bringing additional revenues to the Town as a result.
The Reports section of the Town Council meeting consisted of an update from Ken Romig of Dekker/Perich/Sabatini regarding the Safeguarding of Abandoned Mines on Boston Hill Project. (GCB article: http://www.grantcountybeat.com/index.php/news/news-articles/10022-town-of-silver-city-may-raise-water-sewer-rates-to-cover-revenue-shortfall ) Romig reported that:
• Phase I Assessment is almost complete;
• Phase II Planning is in progress;
• Two Field Design Meetings have been conducted with representatives from the local community;
• Findings include numerous mine opening hazards, an open hazardous land formation "coliseum," and various animal (including bat) habitats; and
• While stakeholders wish to preserve the rugged nature of the Boston Hill area, any new safeguards will need to be monitored over time by volunteers from the community.
Romig stated that the next step in the project would be to develop a proposed design that would then be presented to community stakeholders.
Lastly, during the New Business portion of the meeting, the Council approved the following items:
• Two Public Celebration Permit Applications for the Bike-tober Fest, a fundraiser for Bikeworks on Oct. 18, 2013, Liquor License Holders Little Toad Creek Brewery and Little Toad Creek Distillery;
• Approval of Resolution No. 2013-35 authorizing a loan agreement between the Town and the NM Finance Authority for $764,950 for lighting and safety netting at Scott Park. Annual debt service for the 15-year loan will amount to $62,000, which will be offset by the reduction of $200,000/year debt service for the Town as a result of other debt refinancing; and
• Approval of the destruction of 293 boxes of Town records from the Executive, Finance, Fire, Community Development, Municipal Court, Police, Recreation Center, Public Library and Utilities Departments.
The meeting was then adjourned.