Two Grant County commissioners reviewed a short agenda for Thursday's regular meeting and heard county reports. Commissioner Gabriel Ramos was called out of town on business.

In the financial report, County Manager Jon Paul Saari said the monthly expenditure report was $1,151,166, including purchase of vehicles under the vehicle replacement policy and a vehicle for the Fire Management Officer, the total of which came to $75,000. The vehicles were purchased locally at Lawley. About $33,000 was for construction on the front of the County Administration Center, with the walkway, handrails and paving yet to be completed.

Commissioner Ron Hall noted that the area right in front of the doors needs repair. Saari said it "would likely be chipped out and a sealer would be put on it, or somehow we'll rejuvenate the area."

Under new business, Santa Clara has asked to be put on the regular meeting agenda to request the village's annexation of the Fort Bayard Road from U.S. 180 to the Fort Bayard Medical Center.

"I don't think it has any effects to the county," Saari said.

In other new business, commissioners will consider granting authority to the County Manager to transfer the county's employee insurance broker and carrier from the state of New Mexico to Rydeski & Company under terms described by Robert Rydeski at the Oct. 10 regular meeting.

"Under the new insurance, there would be only a co-pay," Saari said. "(Attorney) Abby (Robinson) has been reviewing the proposal. Rydeski went out to find comparisons. The state wants us to go out to bid, but our goal is to have our employees on Rydeski insurance on January 1. The county would also pay for long-term disability to the age of 65."

Hall asked if the employees would have a chance to ask questions, and Saari said a meeting held the day before was for questions and answers.

"Is there any way to measure how the employees feel?" Hall asked. Commission Chairman Brett Kasten asked the department heads if they had had any feedback.

Road Superintendent Earl Moore said he told his employees to let the commissioners know what they thought about the change.

"The coverage is better and the county will save about $10,000 a month," Saari said.

Villanueva asked about the options. Saari said there were two options, the PPO, which would be best for families, because it has network coverage across the country and employees can go out of network, although at higher costs. The HMO is better for young, healthy, single employees, but they cannot go out of network.

Treasurer Steve Armendariz said: "Our crew all attended, except for Ted. Their only apprehension seemed to be that they will have to change from Blue Cross Blue Shield that they are happy with to Presbyterian."

Saari said the $120,000 annual savings would actually be more, because the state had let the county know that the state rates were going up 15 percent next year.

"There were issues on both sides," Armendariz said. "Rydeski did a good presentation and made himself available for further questions."

"One thing about going to a broker," Saari said. "Say, the coding is wrong or a claim is denied. He will fight the insurance company for you. The state won't do that."

"That and we're leaving the money local," Kasten said.

At the regular Thursday meeting, Richard Lawyer of the Grant County Fair Board will thank the commissioners for their work on behalf of the fair.

"I got an impressive letter from a citizen, who complimented every road department employee by name," Hall said.

Saari said the Road Department would like to dispose of a 1970 CAT 950 loader, which cannot run the county's new asphalt zipper. "We need to trade this one in, and we might lease a new one through the state."

Commissioners will consider an EMS Funds Act local systems improvement project application for $4,500 for fiscal year 2015 for the Tyrone Volunteer Fire Department to provide training. An additional $1,000 match comes out of TVFD fire funds.

In contracts and agreements, commissioners will discuss an agreement between the county and the New Mexico Department of Transportation Transit and Rail Division in an amount not to exceed $1,216,398, 83, of which the county match will be $495,109.13. The administrative portion and the capital portion will be 80/20 federal/county match. The operating costs will be a 50/50 share.

"It's an agreement we get every year to run the buses," Saari explained. "The capital portion is for equipment, the administrative for the offices and the operations is for fuel and maintenance.

Kasten asked if the capital could be rolled over. Saari said he would find out.

Under resolutions at the regular meeting, commissioners will consider support of the New Mexico Association of Counties legislative priorities for the 2014 session.

"On Thursday, so no one is surprised, please be prepared to talk about the priorities of your affiliate and recommend up or down for us, because we don't know your needs," Kasten said to the department heads.

Kasten said, before approval, the commissioners can cross off items they don't agree with and don't need to rate them, in answer to a question from Hall.

Also to be discussed will be a resolution with revisions to the Grant County Nepotism Policy.

Robinson explained that compared to the current policy, the revised one is "more flexible. We narrowed down the list of what we define as family members. We could get family members working together, but they cannot directly be supervising one another. For instance, in the Detention Center, we have brothers and cousins, but they cannot supervise one another."

She explained some are family relationships and some are personal relationships. "The close personal ones are the more problematic, because they may cause liability."

"We are concerned about safety issues, and we can try to reschedule to a different shift," Robinson said. "We will move a superior and not a subordinate or dismiss a superior, but not a subordinate."

Mike Carrillo, Detention Center administrator, said it is an important issue to communicate the policy to the employees. "We have no problem with the policy."

Robinson said the policy has not yet changed. "With new elected officials, there may already be a relative in the department. They cannot be the direct supervisor. A relative cannot be hired after an elected official is in the position. The policy will be determined on a case-by-case basis."

The commissioners, as the Grant County Indigent and Health Plan Claims Board, will consider 1,421 claims in the amount of $645,537.69.

Saari noted that a registration center for the Affordable Care Act has been opened at the County Business and Conference Center. "It started yesterday (Monday) and will run Monday through Friday and Saturday. The website is finally working, but it stops at where one can choose insurance. It saves the information, so the person can go back later and make the insurance choice."

"We will add one item to the agenda—the Sheriff's Department annual agreement for Operation DWI for $25,000, Operation Buckle Up for $3,000 and 100 Days and Nights of Summer for $4,000," Saari said. "The last two are for overtime."

"The amounts haven't increased or decreased in over four years," Sheriff Raul Villanueva said.

The next article will cover county reports, beginning with one from Gila Regional Medical Center Interim Chief Executive Officer Brian Cunningham.

Live from Silver City

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