Editor's Note: The Grant County Commission held a long work session this morning, after a month in Santa Fe for the legislative session. This is part 1 of a multi-part series.
By Mary Alice Murphy
Thursday's regular meeting agenda will have the first item of business as the administration of the oath of office and the issuance of badges to Detention Center officers. Chairman Brett Kasten will administer the oath of office.
Mike Carrillo, Detention Center administrator, said the officers were looking forward to again having badges.
Commissioners will approve or disapprove the volunteer firefighters annual reporting to the New Mexico Public Employees Retirement Association. The departments include Cliff-Gila Volunteer Fire Department, Fort Bayard VFD, Lower Mimbres VFD, Pinos Altos Volunteer Fire and Rescue, Santa Rita VFD, Sapillo Creek VFR, Tyrone VFR, Upper Mimbres VFR, and Whiskey Creek VFR.
Commissioners will hear a presentation from the Mimbres Film LLC regarding a new business in Grant County to attract the film industry to the county. Kasten said he had invited Silver City Mayor James Marshall and the next mayor, Mike Morones, to attend, so that "we don't duplicate efforts."
Commissioners will consider removing inventory of a 2004 Chevy Blazer from the Assessor's Office to the Public Works Dept. and a proclamation declaring March 14, 2014 as Salt of the Earth Day, for the 50th anniversary of the film.
At this point in the meeting, after having received the printed notice of the public hearing, commissioners recessed to hear input on possible Colonias Infrastructure Fund applications within Grant County for the 2015 funding cycle.
To a question from Kasten about the need for more hearings, County Planner Anthony Gutierrez said this would be the last one on this issue because of the lateness of receiving last year's agreement and this year's deadline for application.
"We will try to have more hearings on Community Block Development Grant applications," Gutierrez said.
Commissioner Ron Hall asked if the county had a project for the Colonias fund.
"We are submitting Rosedale Road to take the dangerous curves out and to redesign and fix drainage," Gutierrez said. "It was a GRIP II project from two years ago, and we had fully engineered it, so we will resubmit it."
Commissioner Gabriel Ramos said Pat Peralta had asked about fire hydrants. "I'm not sure if the area he's talking about is a colonia. It might fit into CDBG," Gutierrez said. "We don't have a CDBG project yet."
County Manager Jon Paul Saari said fire hydrants had been added since Peralta asked about it, "but they are at the lower end. Pat would like them running through the neighborhoods."
During public input for the hearing, Gary Stailey, county resident, asked if the projects were all public works projects. "There are a lot of places in Grant County where private septic systems cause public hazards."
Gutierrez said, with the help of Engineers Inc., USDA tried to identify areas with septic problems. "Indian Hills has water, but not wastewater. We have submitted a request for planning money, but the area has to be identified as a colonia, and need is also a factor."
Saari explained that for a colonias designation, 51 percent of the area has to be low-to-moderate income. "Also for CDBG."
Kasten asked if the council of governments does surveys on income level.
"In most areas, we still have income-level data," Gutierrez said. "It is a requirement that the surveys have been done."
Saari said the Rosedale Road project had had studies done, but the state kept them and "kept the money, too. So this is an opportunity to use what the taxpayer dollars have already been spent on."
Hall noted that the public hearing showed that flood control could be eligible for the colonias fund. "Do we have any projects on the table?"
Gutierrez explained flood control has to do with localized areas. "Santa Clara could probably justify a project, but it's out of our jurisdiction."
Kasten noted Santa Clara could apply on its own.
Gutierrez said the county assisted with Santa Clara's application to extend their water lines. "They think they may even run out of water this year."
After going back into the work session, commissioners addressed the next items on the regular meeting agenda.
The High Desert Humane Society will give its annual report.
Commissioners will consider:
- An application from Whiskey Creek VFR for funding under the EMS Fund Act. The department received an extension to present the request late; and
- The annual grant/distribution funding application for the local DWI Grant Program from the Department of Finance and Administration for $240,508.
Under contracts and agreements, commissioners will approve or disapprove:
- A grant agreement amendment for the DWI grant to receive $2,891 in reverted unspent funding;
- An amendment to reclassify funds for the North Central NM Economic Development District Non-Metro Area Agency on Aging for a direct purchase of services vendor agreement for food services. Saari said it would provide another $10,000 for meals for senior programs;
- A modification of a grant agreement for the USDA Forest Service for $32,013, including carryover for overtime or equipment. The Forest Service law enforcement officers are cross-commissioned with the Grant County Sheriff's office for forest patrols;
- Grant County DWI program and NM Department of Health assurances and cooperative agreement; and
- DWI Program and the NM Department of Finance memorandum of understanding.
Resolutions to be considered include:
- The Rosedale Road colonias application based on the public hearing. Saari explained that because last year's agreement was late, having been just received, there was not enough time to apply for construction of the North Hurley project, as design and engineering has not been completed;
- Acceptance of roads for maintenance in the Wind Canyon Subdivision. Saari said the county has accepted the roads, but it has been working on the last of them. "It does not include Fleming Tank Road, because it is outside the subdivision. We are working with those residents." Gutierrez said the roads in question are in Wind Canyon Estates; and
- A lease-purchase agreement with Caterpillar Financial Services Corp to lease a new loader that works with the Road Department's asphalt zipper.
Saari explained the lease purchase would cut the county's maintenance costs, with a payment of $2,300 a month, including maintenance. "It will cost $59,000 at the end of the lease for a $170,000 piece of equipment. The cost of the lease is not that much more at about $190,000 all together. It helps keep our cash more liquid without putting out a lot up front. The rate is a 3 percent lease. When the loader is paid for at the end, it still has most of its value."
Commissioners will consider two bids. The first is for an assessment district in Santa Rita Subdivision to bring Miners' Legend and Kneeling Nun roads up to county standards for maintenance.
"The bids ranged from $120,000 to more than $300,000," Saari said. "The county can do it as an option, by purchasing the materials and doing the labor, using our equipment. The assessment will be paid by the residents. We will get a loan through NMFA; the residents will have a lien on their property until their assessment is paid."
Hall said the Road Department is continually short-handed.
Saari said he was told it was a short project, probably two weeks, if the commission chooses to have the county do the work. "When the project is done is when we finalize the amounts."
Ramos said he did not like the idea of government going against private companies. "What are the warranties?"
Saari said when the project is completed, it becomes the liability of the county to take care of the roads.
"I have no problem awarding to the low bidder," Kasten said. "I believe our third option is the most viable, with the county providing the materials, but Fowler Brothers providing the labor and equipment."
County Attorney Abby Robinson said the county is allowed by statute to do the project.
"I would rather go with option 3," Kasten reiterated.
Gutierrez pointed out that in previous discussions, the project had been offered to the residents for a cheaper price.
"Earl (Moore, road superintendent) tells me if we charged for equipment and labor, it would be about the same as option 3," Kasten said.
"I want to make sure the residents understand the cost," Gutierrez said.
Robinson said, in past assessment districts, the county did provide labor.
"That's when the county had money," Gutierrez said. "The last one was about 2001 or so."
"And when the commissions weren't worrying about a one-year extension of PILT and the hospital and, …" Kasten said.
The second bid was for a fire pump and integrated foam tank to supply the Lower Mimbres VFD.
Saari said the foam makes 500 gallons go a lot further, because it sticks to trees and doesn't just run off.
He will add three items to the Thursday agenda. "Lonnie Sandoval wants to talk to the commission about Loma Verde Subdivision. We were waiting for the last signature."
Robinson reported that she was preparing a lawsuit to condemn the property, "when we got a surprise."
"The owner had been out of town in Colorado for six months and returned to all our voice and mail messages," Saari said. "He called and was happy to sign the paperwork, but had lost our address. So no longer a lawsuit."
Robinson said Dolores Dominguez, ordinance officer, was preparing the next step.
"If we have to do special meetings to speed it up, let's do it," Ramos said.
"I hope Loma Verde is not the same as Viva Santa Rita, with the wrong estimates that did not include equipment and labor," Gutierrez said. "We need to let the residents know the true costs."
Another addition to the agenda will be a proclamation, requested by The Volunteer Center, to name 2014 the "Year of the Volunteer."
"I'm going to add one more," Kasten said. "Senator Morales is going to give an update on the legislative session. Rep. Martinez we can set up for March."
Saari said the county received a couple of applications for the Lodger's Tax Committee—Lucy Whitmarsh and Scott Terry.
"Are the chambers working together, I presume?" Ramos asked. "They have the same goals. I would hate to see a waste of funds."
The next article will cover the Wildfire and Water Source Protection in New Mexico presentation.