Effective immediately, no burn permits will be issued
Article and Photos by Mary Alice Murphy
The Silver City Town Council meeting, held Thursday, Feb. 20, was the last meeting for Mayor James Marshall and Councilor Polly Cook, who are not running for re-election. A reception was held for them after the meeting.
The meeting began with two proclamations. The first was to name Girl Scout Week for March 9-15, for the organization's 103rd birthday. Mayor and Annette and Lillith Harsh-Cypress on the back row, Middle Row-Katelyn Montenegro, Rachel Windsor, Emily Gossett, Ashlyn Richey, Kristina Lee Mosely and Front Row-Kimberly Mosely, Haylee Thurrhnerr, Tess Sherma. All are from Troop 302 of Silver City.
Above, Kimberly Mosely pins a Girl Scout pin on the mayor upside down until he does a good deed, when he can turn it rightside up.
Above, The second proclamation named 2014 "The Year of the Volunteer" to honor The Volunteer Center's 10th birthday. From left are Mayor James Marshall, volunteer Alan Mong, The Volunteer Center Director Alicia Edwards, volunteer Stephanie Smith, and SWNMCOG Director, Priscilla Lucero
During public input, Cook said she wanted "to thank everybody in this town who has supported me and brought things to my attention. I tried to answer all of you and follow through with everything to the best of my ability."
She lauded the group of councilors and mayor as "wonderful. They serve because they love our town. The town employees have been nothing but nice to me. The only reason I would be up here again is because of 'Marshall' law! Get out and vote."
Lucy Whitmarsh, representing Silver City MainStreet Project as the president of the board, said the MainStreet board passed a resolution in support of the renewal of the public safety tax.
Kathy Anderson, Silver City Neighborhood Alliance founder, said the group also supports the renewal of the public safety tax, as well as a resolution on the evening's agenda to use town resources to improve the prevention and response to wild land fire risk.
"I also want to put a plug in for the March 7 and 8 Silver City/Grant County Symposium on Preparedness," Anderson said.
Councilor Cynthia Bettison said she has been receiving calls and text messages on concerns about fire permits. She said she has signed up for the Preparedness Symposium and urged others to do so. "I do support the permanent renewal of the public safety tax. It's 12.5 cents for every $100 you spend. It is used specifically for public safety and pays for three police officers, one firefighter, equipment for the two departments, including bunker gear to keep the firefighters safe."
She said it has been wonderful having another woman on the council, and she looked forward to there being three.
"It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve with Mayor Marshall," Bettison said. "I have learned from him how to be of service to the community, and I think we have done extremely effective work for the town."
Cook also thanked Yolanda Holguin, the town manager's administrative assistant, and Clerk Ann Mackie. "You two women are wonderful."
Councilor José Ray Jr. laughed and said: "I'm going to be terrified with three women." In a more serious tone, he announced a bike run as part of the Blues Festival, which will include two teams—the Armaduras, with members of the Police Department and the Leatherheads from the Fire Department.
Councilor Mike Morones, in his last meeting as councilor and unopposed for mayor, also joked about three women on the council. "Having two daughters, I have experience handling women, but with my daughters I get to be a dictator."
He thanked Cook, "who asked hard questions. And it has been an honor to serve with Mayor Marshall. If I can serve half as well as Marshall has, I will consider it a success."
In town reports, Assistant Fire Chief Tim Heidrick said the Fire Department has been working on the burn permit issue. "We had made a decision to quit issuing them March 1, but because of recent fires on the Gila, and the elevated risk of fire from moderate to high, effective immediately, there will be no burn permits issued or permitted to be used."
In new business, a special dispenser permit application was approved for the Hunting Heritage Banquet, with the license being that of the Buffalo Bar.
Don Fell, president of the Gila Gobblers Chapter of the National Turkey Federation, said the banquet will be held March 20 to raise funds for the national organization, which distributes funds back to the state group, whose office is in Roswell, and then "we ask for monies for our projects."
Bettison asked if there would be games of chance, which could not be held in the same place as alcohol service.
Fell said the alcohol would be served only in the kitchen area and on the patio, and there would be security at each entrance to the kitchen and patio to ensure that only adults would enter and be able to drink alcohol.
Bettison noted the map was not clear and Marshall also asked that the map be redone to clarify where alcohol would be served.
Councilors also approved an application for the New Mexico Department of Transportation Municipal Arterial Program (MAP) funding of Phase II of the street and drainage improvements on College Avenue.
Morones asked Peter Peña, Public Works director, if the match was in the budget. Peña said the match was $125,000. Town Manager Alex Brown confirmed it would be included in next year's budget.
Also approved was the afore-mentioned resolution for the intent to use appropriate and available town resources to improve prevention and response to wild land fire risk. The town would prepare, present and adopt the International Council Fire Preparedness Code, among other solutions.
The town has been in meetings with New Mexico Forestry, which has reported fires of a severity not documented before.
Homeowners are not only encouraged, but may be mandated to put in defensible space around a home in town and in the surrounding areas.
Heidrick said he has been working on a Wildfire Protection Plan, with the town, Grant County, the Forest Service, Nick Sussillo, New Mexico Forestry and Bureau of Land Management.
"We had a core group meeting and determined there are 14 areas of concern in Silver City and the extra-territorial zone that are in the wildland-urban interface (WUI), Heidrick said. "There are a lot of light, flashy fuels in the dry grass. We have to determine how to reduce the fuels in the area.
"We have decided to first focus on Wind Canyon, because of its location to the west and southwest, where the prevailing winds come toward Silver City," he continued. "In the area there are a lot of slopes and a lot of fuel to feed fires. The county also has a Community Wildfire Preparedness Plan and we have to work hand-in-hand."
The core group is looking at what treatments to suggest, such as defensible space around homes.
Anderson said: "There are a couple of realities. First as firefighters they cannot put their lives on the line to save property from fire. If homes are not defensible, they will be left to burn. We have to walk our talk. I've been removing bear grass and other flammable fuels on our property and that of our neighbors."
Cissy McAndrew, Southwest New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce director, said right after the Quail Ridge Fire, talks were held with the county. "We need codes to promote the non-flammable construction methods for homes."
Nick Sussillo, community member, formerly of the Office of Sustainability, said he has been working on the Wildfire Protection Plan.
He said cooperation with the county represents a new opportunity. He also reported the Forest Service has expressed a real concern this year, because of the high dry grass, the winds and human behavior. "Gabe Holguin of the Gila National Forest is concerned we will have a catastrophic fire this year. We can wait or choose to be proactive."
The group will work to identify and document areas of concern in the WUI. "We will names areas that cause liability. We have challenges in front of us, but it is a valuable task."
Peña asked for approval and received it to support an application for New Mexico Finance Authority under the Colonias Infrastructure Fund for Phase II street and drainage improvements on Silver Street. "We already have matching funds, and will complete paving, curb and gutter, signage and striping."
Robert Esqueda, Utilities director, asked for and received support of an application to the NMFA under the CIF for wastewater treatment plan improvements.
"This will be for a belt filter press, which will allow mechanical dewatering of sludge," Esqueda said.
He said the town has to spend a considerable amount of time turning the sludge at the dewatering beds to allow natural elements to dry it out.
Brown said the town ordinance that sets the water and sewer rates pay for most services. "But we will get a response from NMFA before next year's budget, so we can begin doing the process more efficiently."
Esqueda said the electricity usage would be augmented by the solar array on site.
Marguerite Flannagan was named to the Museum Board.
The rest of the meeting, which consisted of comments from Marshall about his mayoral tenure will be covered in a subsequent article.