At the Grant County Commission meeting Thursday, Oct. 31, County Manager Jon Paul Saari presented the financial report, which covered expenditures of $1,151,166.90 as of Oct. 28. Saari said about $85,000 was spent locally at Lawley Ford for a truck for the fire management officer and two Explorers to replace other vehicles. Another $33,000 was spent on construction on the front of the Administration Center and the Grant County Cliff-Gila Fair barn. He said the handrails for the front of the building are being crafted by Silver City's Steelworks.

In new business, Santa Clara Mayor Richard Bauch told commissioners, the village was hoping to annex the Fort Bayard Road from U.S. 180 to Fort Bayard Medical Center.

"We are trying to define and finalize our boundaries," Bauch said. "We want to see if there is any opposition from the county to our annexation plans. We had annexed to the fence line, but should have annexed the whole road."

"I have no opposition," Commission Chairman Brett Kasten said.

Commissioner Ron Hall asked to which side of the road. Bauch replied: "To the east side."

Sheriff Raul Villanueva said his department patrols the road and into the Fort Bayard campus.

Commissioner Gabriel Ramos said to Bauch that it would be nice to have the village helping out when there are tournaments at Bataan Memorial Park.

"Thank you," Bauch said. "We will approve the annexation at our November meeting and then we will do the filing."

Saari asked for copies for the Planning Department and for GIS purposes.

"We contacted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and hope to talk to them about the flooding that occurred in Santa Clara," Ramos said.

"Five families were severely affected," Bauch said. "Two buildings were a total loss and two or three others severely damaged."

Ramos noted that donations for the families were being taken at AmBank. He commended the quick action of the village police and the sheriff for blocking off the area.

"We appreciate the help from the Sheriff's Department and the Bayard Police Department," Bauch said.

Richard Lawyer, Fair Board member, said the board was very thankful to the county for replacing the barn that was destroyed in a windstorm last year. He said this year's fair was dedicated to Ron Lamb, long time extension agent.

"It's a really nice barn," Lawyer said. "The Silver City and Cliff FFA students and 4-H students worked lots of weekends to get the inside of the barn completed." He reported that 2,700 people came through the gates to the fair, and the animal sales showed a slight increase this year. "Without the carnival, a lot of people don't go."

Kasten said that was the only public comment the commissioners had received. People want the carnival back. "We're working on that," Lawyer said.

"When you're thanking the commissioners, it's also the Road Department, the Sheriff's Department and a lot of staff to be included," Ramos noted.

Commissioners approved:
• The disposal of a 1970 CAT-950 loader to be replaced;
• An EMS Funds Act Local System Improvement Project application by the Tyrone Volunteer Fire Department for $4,500 for training. The department has a $1,000 match;
•An agreement with the New Mexico Department of Transportation Transit and Rail Division for grants to run Corre Caminos. Some are 80/20 match and others 50/50, with the total county match requiring $495,109.13. Saari said the funding comes from the entities using the service, including Grant County, Silver City, Lordsburg, Hidalgo County, Deming and Luna County; and
• An agreement with the NMDOT Traffic Safety Division for Sheriff's projects, including Operation DWI, Operation Buckle Down and 100 Days and Nights of Summer.

Commissioners granted authority to the manager to transfer employee insurance from the state of New Mexico to Rydeski & Co.

Villanueva said he had talked to his staff, and there were no major concerns. "Why is Rydeski offering only Presbyterian and not the others?"

"The state has three or four companies, but that is for thousands of employees," Saari explained. "For 150 employees, it is not financially possible to offer good rates if it is with different companies. No company will cover only a few people at a good rate. Rydeski did get two options—a PPO and an HMO."

Saari also talked about the retiree health care plan. "This has nothing to do with what we're doing for health insurance, but the state retirement plan is now excluding anyone if they have had major health problems. Once a person is in the plan, they cannot get out. I'm going to talk to the senator."

An individual who is getting ready to retire told Saari that she had received a letter telling her she was excluded from the retiree health plan because she had had cancer, even thought she has paid into the plan for 25 years.

"The retiree health plan costs the county $70,000 a year and the employees all together also $70,000," Saari said. "Employees need to have an option to opt out of paying for the retiree health plan, if they are just going to lose their money."

Treasurer Steve Armendariz said Rydeski told county employees in a meeting that a bid he received from another company was not competitive.

Commissioners, as the Grant County Indigent and Health Plan Claims Board, approved 1404 claims for $598,070.29 to be paid out of sole community provider funding. In addition, commissioners approved 17 out-of-county claims for $56,467.40 to be paid out of the Indigent Fund.

"We still don't know what's going to happen next year," Saari said. "The state is talking about taking 1/8 or 1/16, with no guarantee we will get it back. We would likely benefit, if the match is 3-to-1, but larger counties would lose. We would rather keep our own tax and distribute it to our hospital. After this, we don't know if we will send another payment to the state. This money we are approving has already been accounted for. The county pays the indigent claims."

The next article will cover the resolutions and county reports.

Live from Silver City

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