The first item on the agenda for Thursday's regular County Commission meeting was the election of a chairman.
Commissioner Ron Hall made the motion to nominate Brett Kasten to remain as chairman. Commissioner Gabriel Ramos seconded the motion.
"I appreciate your confidence in me," Kasten said.
"And I appreciate everything you do for the county," Ramos said. "You are a very active chairman and I appreciate the extra work you do."
Hall said he also appreciated Kasten's work "in Santa Fe and around the state."
"It's a humbling experience to be re-elected," Kasten said. "I don't know that I could ask to work with a better bunch of electeds."
During public input, Mike Cuff of Gila representing the Farm Bureau announced the Arizona Water Settlements Act quarterly public meeting to be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13, at the Cliff High School gym.
Ramos asked that it be advertised that a quorum of commissioners might be attending, although no county business would be done.
County Manager Jon Paul Saari gave the financial report, showing a cash balance of $1,911,028 on Nov. 30.  The cash balance, as of the end of the fiscal year, June 30, is projected to be $2,370,566, with a required 3/12ths cash reserve of $2,105,342, leaving a surplus of $265,224. 
"As of Nov. 30, 29 percent of budgeted revenues had been collected," Saari said. "No transfers out of the General Fund have been made to date. They are usually made after the halfway point of the fiscal year."
The Road Department, which has not yet received any transfers, had a negative balance of -$136,973 at the end of November. It is projected to have a cash balance of $136,773 at the end of the fiscal year. With the required 1/12th cash reserve of $130,935 subtracted, the department will have a projected surplus of $5,838.
The Corrections Department had a negative balance of -$794,266 on Nov. 30. It also has not received any transfers and is projected to have a cash balance of $32,723 at the end of June. It is not required to have a cash reserve.
The expenditure report since the Dec. 10 meeting shows expenses of $2,818,036.36, including payment to the Treasurer's Office for insurance; radio equipment and repeaters for the Upper Mimbres VFR; $1,121,996.36 for the sole community provider payment; three payrolls; and the insurance binder in advance for the new insurance policy for employees.
Commissioners approved the applications to the Department of Health EMS Fund from the Tyrone Volunteer Fire and Rescue—Tyrone/White Signal stations-District 1; Tyrone VFR—Flying A and Wind Canyon-District 2; Tyrone VFR—Hachita station-District 3; and the Pinos Altos VFR. 
Also approved were the Volunteer Fire and Rescue Departments' annual election of officers. They include Pinos Altos, Sapillo Creek, Upper Mimbres, Tyrone, Whiskey Creek, Santa Rita, Fort Bayard, Lower Mimbres, and Cliff-Gila. The only change in chief was to Marty Mize at Upper Mimbres.
Alicia Edwards and Marilyn Alcorn were re-appointed to the Food Policy Council for three-year terms.
Commissioners accepted the audit report for the fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2013. It received an unqualified opinion, "the best you can get," according to Saari. He said there were no findings that required reporting. Some minor findings included misuse of purchase orders, which has been addressed by the county, and the property tax report going out before exemptions were put in. Saari said most entities in the state have the same problem. Another problem shared by most counties is delinquencies in receiving solid waste payments. A new finding was on personnel records, where some had signed on the wrong line or only had one form of identification. All have been rectified.
"It was on time," Saari said. "We had a good turnaround to get us back on track."
Hall noted that the audit is worked on all year long.
Kasten said it was the first time since he has been a commissioner that the audit was delivered on time. "We were two years behind when I got here, and now we're caught up. I don't anticipate us going out of compliance again."
Commissioners ratified the NM Department of Finance and Administration capital appropriation project for the administration center, including in the sheriff's office.  "I got it signed on Dec. 11 in Santa Fe," Saari said.
Ramos was appointed as a member to the Transit Authority Board and Randy Villa, General Services director, as the alternate.
The Open Meetings Act resolution for 2014 was approved.
Also approved was the Inmate Orientation Policy for 2014 for the Detention Center. Hall questioned whether some of the language would be understandable by some of the inmates. 
Detention Center Administrator Mike Carrillo said the language in question was suggested by the New Mexico Association of Counties. "The policy is given to them when they are incarcerated and will be posted in each pod. We have an avenue for them to discuss it with us."
Hall also asked where the inmates could obtain a request form. "If they have issues, the inmates are to get hold of a detention officer and are given the form," Carrillo answered.
So an approved application for NMFA financial assistance for the Tyrone VFR to improve the station to keep its main station status can get on the NMFA's February scheduled meeting, Saari will hand carry it to Santa Fe at the beginning of the legislative session.
Another application for NMFA financial assistance for the Santa Rita VFD to build a station in Hanover was also approved, pending receipt of the last three exhibits. Saari hoped to also be able to hand carry it.
Hall said he has been most impressed by the organization and personnel of the volunteer fire departments.
Ramos concurred and said they are am important part of the county.
Commissioners recessed and reconvened as the Grant County Indigent and Health Plan Claims Board to approve 1,031 claims for $696,137.77.
After reconvening as the Grant County Board of Commissioners, they heard a few county reports.
Sheriff Villanueva announced he would seek re-election as sheriff. "Crime has gone down a little bit, and I want to continue to work with citizens. "The three commissioners each commended him for doing a good job.
Treasurer Steve Armendariz announced that of the collected property tax that comes to the county, $3.012 million goes into the General Fund, and some is for debt service. "We have collected almost 60 percent of expected revenues. On Jan. 6, we received the copper production check of $885,734.12, of which $89,000 is for debt service."
"On another note," Armendariz said, "we are still getting a lot of returned mail. By state statute, it is the responsibility of the property owner to notify us of a change of address. If you're not getting your property tax notice, contact us to make sure we have the correct mailing address. Maybe we should put out lists of names that should contact us."
Kasten asked who is responsible to pay property taxes if a mortgage is paid off. 
Armendariz said it is still the responsibility of the property owner. "A lot of owners come in and pay it themselves when the mortgage is paid off. When we do an address change, we forward it to the assessor's office and then get a receipt back from the assessor. It is the assessor's office that controls address changes."
Saari announced that because of the legislative session from Jan. 21-Feb. 20, the only county meetings in February would take place Feb. 25 for the work session and Feb. 27 for the regular meeting.
On Feb. 25, the New Mexico Forest Industries and The Nature Conservancy will give a joint report on their proposal for watershed restoration. "I will send a notice to Catron, Hidalgo and Luna county commissioners to attend if they wish."
Ramos asked the county to put out an advertisement saying that a quorum of commissioners may attend the same meetings in Santa Fe, but no official county business would be done
Kasten noted that the NM Forest Industries and TNC wanted an endorsement of their plans. "I also ask that you set up a presentations with the tire recycling folks for March."
Saari said the endorsement could be made at the regular meeting, if commissioners concurred. He also said the patching should soon be completed in the front of the building.
Hall said he has enjoyed his first year in office, and it has been a learning experience. "I'm looking forward to this year."
Ramos said: "It's been a great three years. Happy New Year to everyone."  
He also said he wanted to address his business to refute rumors that were going around the community. "I am moving into a new insurance company. No, I'm not leaving town. No, I don't have cancer. I'm going to pray for those people who are putting out these rumors."
The meeting was adjourned.

Live from Silver City

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