Commissioners discuss audit and upcoming legislative session challenges.


During county reports at the Grant County Commission's Tuesday combined work and regular session, county officials gave reports.

Sheriff Raul Villanueva said his department was getting ready for the holidays and planning ahead.

"I want to address concerns about the Silver City Police Department running traffic in Bayard and Santa Clara," Villanueva said. "We commissioned them to work the highways. It is proactive to deal with drug activities and money laundering. I support this grant, and I think it will benefit us in the long run. More patrols on the highway help us with traffic stops. We can uncover a lot of things through traffic stops. Any concerns, please call me." To the commissioners he said: "If you get calls, refer them to me. We are being positive and proactive."

Commissioner Ron Hall asked if the Silver City Police Department had received additional training for this purpose.

"Yes, the grant required extra training," Villanueva said.

"Are they providing the same coverage as usual in town?" Commission Chairman Brett Kasten asked.

"Yes, they are working on overtime," Villanueva said.

Kasten pointed out that there has been discourteous behavior from some of the officers, who are young and immature.

"Ask them to call me," Villanueva said. "I spoke with the chief. They have guidelines and should work the same as they do in town. I will address the issue with the chief."

Assessor Mary Guthrie said two of her staff are two courses away from becoming New Mexico certified appraisers.

County Manager Jon Paul Saari said the audit was completed and sent to the state by the deadline. "We are awaiting the review and approval, five days after which, we can release the audit as a public document." He said Planning Director Anthony Gutierrez was not at the meeting, because he was working on the application for the Prospectors' Forum.

"It's coming down from the (Department of Finance and Administration) that whereas we used to put our top five priorities up for possible capital outlay, DFA is limiting everyone to the top three priorities," Saari said. "If the project is not in the top three, it may get vetoed if we go for capital outlay. The top three are the Sheriff's vault and the front of the building; No. 2 is the Business and Conference Center; and No. 3 is the courthouse renovation."

He announced Prospectors' Day during the legislative session would take place Jan. 29, with the session beginning on Jan. 21. "We are looking for it to be a tough 30-day session. Priscilla (Lucero, Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments executive director) fights hard for us, but we may or may not get the agreement, we've been waiting on."

"Every time is different," Lucero said. "Everything is going paperless. This is one of the most chaotic years I've dealt with. The next Colonias application is March 1. For our 2013 awards, they couldn't give us an agreement date. They are just now getting out the last of the 2012 agreements. For Community Block Development Grants, we would normally be in the application phase, but the workshop is in mid-March, for applications in mid-May."

She said also new for capital outlay for the upcoming session is a minimum request of $50,000 in the House and a minimum request of $100,000 on the Senate side.

Saari said the county was instructed that all paperwork had to be done electronically and submitted electronically. "Then we got an email that we had to print out a copy and send in the hard copy."

Lucero said the DFA had an almost total change in personnel. "They have required recertification of all water districts. I've been helping with that."

Saari said the county had received a request to be the fiscal agent for the veterans group, "but if it's not a government entity, they don't have the ICIP and no priorities, so they won't get funding."

"It's difficult to forecast what will happen," Lucero said. "We may get 24-hours notice of a change or a week's notice. It's hard for me because I don't want to see the communities miss out."

Commissioner Gabriel Ramos, who was attending the meeting by telephone, asked if a name had been chosen for the water eco group.

"Yes, but I'll have to get it to you," Saari said.

"I want a meeting on it Wednesday at 1 p.m. in the Red Room," Ramos requested. "What about the exit interview for the audit?"

Saari said it had to be done quickly to meet the deadline, and the chairman was the only commissioner available. Kasten said it would be added to an executive session at the next meeting.

Ramos also asked about the proposed walkway between Bayard and Santa Clara.

"The grant deadline has gone by, because we had fiscal agent problems," Saari said.

"It was a new pot of money," Lucero said. "Initially, Jon Saari offered an in-kind match, but the county was told it could not do that, the same day as they got the application in."

Saari said it was for $35,000 to $50,000. Lucero said there would be another call, so the county could resubmit the application. "The funds will come to the COG, and, in 2016, we can reapply."

"It scares me as a driver to see people walking along the highway," Ramos said.

Lucero explained the proposed walkway lies within Santa Clara boundaries, and the project is listed on the funding plan in the top five.

Ramos asked if Emergency Manager Gilbert Helton has made contact with FEMA. "I was walking with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel to look at the flood damage in Santa Clara. There's a lot more damage than I ever thought of."

Saari said Helton was told Grant County and Santa Clara do not meet the threshold for FEMA funding. Catron County didn't get on the list either.

"All the information we get contradicts other information we get," Ramos complained.

Gutierrez, who had arrived at the meeting, explained that even though the state declared an emergency, FEMA looks at the dollar amount and the threshold is $130,000.

"For property owners, it was well over $150,000," Ramos said, to which Gutierrez replied that private property does not qualify. "It's supposed to be covered under flood insurance."

Saari said Helton has been working on the issue. Ramos said he would get the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report.

"One meeting I attended that I thought was important was in reference to a recreation/community building in Cliff," Hall said. "We looked at land for a substation for the sheriff, too.

"Another vacant building downtown is coming," Hall said. "I thank Mike and Penny Conner for their service to the community."

He also said student athletes have been doing well, with Cobre facing Dexter and Silver playing Hope Christian in the playoffs. "The WNMU women's volleyball is 23-5."

Kasten asked that commissioners to get back to Saari if people have concerns about Santa Clara annexing the Fort Bayard Road. "I've heard complaints that Santa Clara might not have the wherewithal to maintain the road as well as Grant County does."

Kasten told the Beat the next commission meetings are tentatively set for work session on Dec. 10 and regular session on Dec.12, with meetings on an emergency basis after that for the rest of the calendar year.

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