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Grant County Commission holds regular meeting, hears public comment and addresses agenda

The Grant County Commission held its regular session Thursday, Oct. 10. Commissioners heard public comment and addressed a relatively short agenda. Two presentations, one on an insurance proposal for county employees and a request for funding a program from the National Center for Frontier Communities, will be covered in future article(s).

Glen Lovato of Loma Verde Estates was the first to give public input.

"I talked to Manager Jon Saari about how some property owners will not sign the plat," Lovato said. "I ask the commissioners to do a Chapter 42 or 42A to condemn the roads. I have a letter for you from Whiskey Creek Volunteer Fire Department in reference to the roads. It's like there's a bar ditch down the middle of the road."

Lori Ford, Grant County resident, said she went to the Grant County Fair. "It was awesome to see the barn. I know the county and volunteers worked hard to get it ready. But I was disappointed there was no carnival. I heard comments from parents with kids about the lack of a carnival. I, as a farm girl, think a carnival is part of the county fair. The barn is top of the line."

Commission Chairman Brett Kasten said he would relay Ford's comments to the Fair Board.

Lonnie Sandoval, spokesman for Loma Verde Estates, held up a map showing the signatures on the plat, with just a few missing. "We're almost there. Mr. Davidson in California is the only one not complying. If you can help us with the district, we'll put it out to our residents and we'll place dirt ourselves."

"The gentleman at the corner has a power line easement," Sandoval continued. "Is there any way we can start the project with that easement?"

"Power line easements are specifically for power lines," Saari said. "We would have to redo the easement for public access."

"What about a variance for that part?" Sandoval asked.

County Attorney Abigail Robinson said her understanding is that no one can get hold of the property owner, but that he has not refused to sign the plat.

Sandoval said he has called him, but he won't call back.

"I'll try calling him," Robinson said. "Sometimes when you say you're an attorney, people call back."

Dolores Dominguez, county ordinance officer, said the plat had been sent to Davison by regular mail, and "I did talk to him once, when he called, but I don't have his number."

Saari said the reason Davidson was clogging up the process was because "he owns half the road."

"We take 60 feet, and use about 20," Kasten said. "I think there could be a variance. I don't like the idea of a man in California not being fair to the others who live here. I propose doing a variance and then a condemnation."

Planning Department Director Anthony Gutierrez said even if a variance were accepted, it would be at least six months until the process of the assessment district would be ready. "Residents can put in some money to fix it themselves."

Saari said the county would make some calls.

Sandoval said the residents would have to bring in some material until the process gets going.

"It is specific in anti-donation statute that the county cannot upgrade private property," Kasten noted.

Saari said if the residents pay for the materials and bring them in, "it won't be lost and may reduce your costs later."

Kasten asked what would happen if calls to Davidson were not answered. Robinson said the county could do a variance and might not need condemnation.

Dominguez said she had included in the mailed letter a prepaid return envelope.

Saari gave the financial report, noting the expenditures of $2,109,270.51 included the quarterly sole community provider payment, for which Gila Regional Medical Center should be reimbursed.

"We have talked about opening enrollment locations for the Affordable Care Act," Saari said. "Hidalgo Medical Services will have people certified to enroll individuals into plans. We are talking about setting up locations in the (Grant County Veterans' Memorial) Business and Conference Center."

Commissioner Ron Hall asked about the electronic glitches, and Saari said when a person does get into the system, it takes two to two-and-a-half hours to complete the process. "HMS is making of list of documents a person needs before trying to enroll."

"There is so much non-information, people don't know what documents to bring," Kasten said.

Commissioners proclaimed October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month and presented the proclamation to El Refugio Inc. Director Maria Morales-Loebl. She said it is the 30th year of the shelter for DV victims, but  domestic violence continues to be a major public issue.

"We hope the community will continue to support our efforts and will make the pledge that home is a shelter for peace," Morales-Loebl said. "We also ask people to make a quilt square representing your home. We have volunteers who will create the quilt. Oct. 19 at 6 p.m., we will have 15 minutes of silence for victims of domestic violence. The faith community is also helping us raise awareness of domestic violence. We thank you commissioners, and especial Ron Hall, who was one of the founders of El Refugio and continues to be a supporter. Sheriff Raul Villanueva serves on our board of directors as vice president."

Commissioners approved a resolution, which addresses section 3 of the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968. The resolution was requested by the Southwest New Mexico Council of governments.

The second resolution approved is step 3 in the process of creating a road improvement assessment district for Viva Santa Rita subdivision.

During county reports, Gutierrez said he forgot one item at the work session. "We've had some successful projects that helped flooding problems. I had to go to bat against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the New Mexico Environment Department, but the Iron Bridge held. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers agrees as far as this project is concerned that it is a topnotch project. Catron and Sierra counties had millions of dollars in damage. In Grant County, there are some irrigation ditch problems, but they are in the tens of thousands of dollars to repair. We've done our projects for the good of the citizens and the county. Sometimes, it is not too popular, but we do what we need to do."

Commissioner Gabriel Ramos thanked the Fair Board for another successful event. "I want to schedule a meeting with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help Santa Clara with its flood damage. I thank Anthony. The project was unpopular, but it was a big success."

Kasten pointed out that it was only unpopular with a small group.

Hall said he attended a meeting with hospital leadership, which has identified problems and now has to resolve them. "They are working together well."

Kasten said the county would work on getting the Affordable Care Act centers open.

The commissioners went into executive session, from which they adjourned.

The next article(s) will cover the two presentations given during the meeting.

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