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Grant County Commissioners, at work session, hear county reports

Brian Cunningham, Gila Regional Medical Center chief executive officer, presented the first county report given at the Tuesday County Commission work session.

"I want to give you an update on the linear accelerator replacement," Cunningham said. "It is being paid for by money from last year's legislative session. We are waiting for the state to approve our plans. The replacement will result in some disruption in patient care, and we will let you know the dates as soon as we can."


In his update on the revenue cycle, he explained that a significant amount of revenue had been tied up because of lack of coders. "It got as high as $20 million that was tied up in coding before it could go to billing. We are down to about $10 million today, so I hope within a month or so, we will be at a more normal $2 million to $5 million waiting for coding. Now, that $10 million is out to billing and insurance companies."

The revenue cycle is usually about a month behind, so "I'm giving the end of November report. We had a positive bottom line for the month of $23,000. I feel like we have stabilized our days of cash. Earlier in the year, we had about 115 days of cash, but by August we were down to 108. September was at 101, October at 98 and November at 97. December improved up to around 100 days of cash. I hope it will remain stable. There are still a lot of unknowns with the sole community provider piece and how the hospitals will be reimbursed for care. There is uncertainty with the health care exchanges and with Medicaid changes. We will begin to see how it is working out."

Detention Center Administrator Mike Carrillo presented the next county report. "We are still working on policies and procedures and (County Attorney) Abby (Robinson) is helping us out. Policies and procedures are always living documents. We will be affected by the legislative session. Special-needs inmates and certifications may be changed, so we may require additional personnel. Right now, our medical people are helping us with special-needs inmates."

He said the Detention Center had no staff vacancies. "We have seen a decline in inmate population in November and December with 15 to 20 fewer inmates. We have 50 right now. "

"We are continuing with assessment of the facility," Carrillo said. "We meet once a month. We continue to do training. We are testing for two permanent sergeant positions out of eight applicants."  He said Lt. Brawn Aguirre had taken over a lot of the training requirements and is setting up a schedule for the year.

"We did a presentation before the Prospectors on the inmate support program," Carrillo said. "We may have to go up before committee members during the session."

He said the average daily population for December was 50, about 17 fewer than the previous month.

"We had three medical transports," Carrillo said. "Because an inmate can decide he or she wants to go to a different medical facility, he or she has to pay up front for the service."

He said inmates spend an average 7.35 days in jail.

Commissioner Ron Hall said, a few years ago, the jail had a problem with felonies agreeing to a misdemeanor charge and spending 364 days in the county facility at the cost to the county.

Carrillo said he had not seen that.

County Manager Jon Paul Saari commended the detention administration for 40 hours of training before a new employee is put into the field.

"Lt. Aguirre created this program," Carrillo said. "It has reduced issues because everyone is trained the same."

Randy Villa, General Services director, said the Public Works Department has been busy keeping the conference center and Bataan Park ready for use. "They are used almost daily," Villa said. "The Forest Service wants to use it daily for training this month. We are keeping the facilities clean for larger events."

He reported Senior Services had a break in at the Silver City Senior Center. "Maybe kids with new guns shot out windows and a vehicle."

He said he is working with Corre Caminos and the new director and Commissioner Hall about a route to Cliff. "One employee had a death in the family, so they are short on staff."

At mile marker 21, south of Silver City on New Mexico 90, a human-caused fire was held to about 1 acre. "The fields are dry. I ask the public to be cautious, especially when burning trash. I will try to get Gabe Holguin of the Forest Service in to talk about fire conditions."

Road Superintendent Earl Moore said the department is back to business as usual, with some repair work at Separ Road and soon to start on Redrock Road. "We will get the rest of the front of this building patched up. We should finish by Thursday."

Sheriff Raul Villanueva reported a quiet holiday season. For 2013, the department had a 6 percent decrease in calls at 3,786, with 5,100 reports. The department investigated 91 motor vehicle collisions. He said the staff was working with the public to keep crime down.  The civil division was busier in 2013 with a 9 percent increase to 7,087 papers served and more than 40,000 miles in transports, a 10 percent increase.

Assessor Mary Guthrie said, with the new year, taxpayers should be aware that those 65 years of age or older, with less than $32,000 total household income, can freeze their valuation. Veterans receive a $4,000 exemption on their taxable value. Disabled veterans can be free of property tax. Every homeowner can benefit from a $2,000 exemption in taxable value.

"Now is the time to report manufactured housing, livestock and business equipment for personal property tax," Guthrie said.

Planner Anthony Gutierrez said he received word the Colonias funding agreement was in the works and should be received soon.

"We will begin the North Hurley project using in kind services," Gutierrez said. "If we get started we can apply for construction funds in the next application cycle in March. We are awaiting a lift station for North Hurley. I am working on capital outlay and just finished the questionnaire."

Saari said the legislative session would run from Jan. 21-Feb. 20. "It is not going to be a good session. It will be a battle. We are prepared to testify and work behind the scenes, too. We will try to stop unfunded mandates, but a lot is out of our control. The sole community provider piece we will be watching closely to keep the hospitals whole. Some are trying to cut back to 3/16ths from 3/8ths the cost municipalities will have to levy to counteract the loss of hold harmless. Silver City, without the hold harmless, stands to lose $1.4 million, and with the 3/16ths would receive only $450,000."

He said the Municipal League has proposed putting the food tax back on, and it is one of its priorities. The New Mexico Association of Counties is not supporting it.

"The first week will be county training, with the second week, on Jan. 29, Prospectors Day meeting with cabinet secretaries and the lieutenant governor," Saari said. "We are getting close with the New Mexico Finance Authority to get reimbursed for a planning grant."

He said the state had put out an expression of interest to sell old Fort Bayard, keeping out 50 acres for the Department of Health, 20 acres to expand the national cemetery and 100 acres for veterans. "Rep. Rodolpho 'Rudy' Martinez wants some land for the Paupers' cemetery, which is almost full. The state will not sell the water rights, but will lease them to a purchaser of the facility."

Commissioner Gabriel Ramos said he hoped a purchaser would continue to allow access to the community. Saari said the General Services Department would have to seek legislative permission to sell the property.

Ramos said the eco-watershed group has been meeting and is working on a mission statement and five goals, with the next meeting set for Jan. 15. Gilbert Helton has been an asset, Ramos said.

Hall said he and Saari have been discussing abandoned mobile homes. "I want to put together a citizen committee, of which I will be a part, to address the issue. I've also been working on getting a Corre Caminos route to Cliff."

"The continuum of care is a huge project," Hall said. "We have to determine what we have and what we need. We are mainly working on a detox facility. I am also working with Cliff and Gila on a recreation/community center. We want to come out with a bid to build bathrooms, a kitchen, a sheriff's substation and room for activities. I thank the staff and wish everyone a Happy New Year. I challenge everyone to do their best."

Commission Chairman Brett Kasten said, because he was losing his voice, he would give his report on Thursday. The meeting was adjourned, with the regular meeting to take place at 9 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 9, at the Grant County Administration Center.

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