Editor's Note: This is the final of a three-part series of articles on the Grant County Commission work session Tuesday, Feb. 25. This article covers the county reports.
At the Grant County Commission work session Tuesday morning, Mike Carrillo, Detention Center administrator, was the first to give a report. He said the jail's policies and procedures are being reviewed by the County Attorney Abigail Robinson. He said the documents had already been approved by the New Mexico Association of Counties detention center affiliate.
He also announced that the jail has one vacancy and two officers were promoted to permanent sergeant positions—Mark Lucero and Clint Hardesty. Josh Galindo is temporary training officer and will coordinate all training sessions. Carrillo said he hopes to make the position permanent soon.
The New Mexico Association of Counties jail affiliate did an assessment of the Grant County Detention Center and "I am using it to make changes to be in compliance with state mandates."
The jail extraction team is doing physical training locally, he said. The proposed intervention program went through some House and Senate committees, but did not pass overall. "Our plan is that we will proceed as far as we can without funding to show the Legislature what it can do."
Carrillo said he and his officers were looking forward taking the oath of office and receiving their badges at the Grant County Commission regular meeting (held this morning).
Commissioner Ron Hall asked if the medical program was working well. "We have had a few bumps," Carrillo said, "but we are coordinating with the doctor and our medical staff, especially with the special needs inmates."
Commission Chairman Brett Kasten said House Bill 63 was a lot of work for Rep. Rodolpho "Rudy" Martinez to get out of the Appropriations Committee intact, but didn't survive the Finance Committee. "We'll try to get it in the budget somewhere next year."
"We had a lot of support from the Legislative Health Committee," Carrillo said. "We thank Rep. Martinez."
County Planner Anthony Gutierrez said Wind Canyon Estates has been diligent in getting signatures for an assessment district to bring their roads up to county standards, so they can be dedicated to the county for maintenance. "We will have to present new estimates for county equipment and labor usage, as well as materials, and for the two others pending."
He said the issue with Wind Canyon Estates is where the road is and where it is platted. "We need to do a survey and that adds to costs."
Gutierrez said the closing documents are completed for an Economic Development Administration grant. "We also got the preliminary engineering report for an industrial park at the airport and received preliminary costs. I thank Dori (Dominguez, ordinance officer) for her time and effort put into the assessment districts. It's an extremely long process and without Dori, it would be longer."
He also spoke to the Arizona Water Settlements Act and Senate Bill 89, which attempted to put $82 million into non-diversion alternatives and conservation. "While we support conservation, we don't want to preclude a diversion project. We proved there was demand, and a market for the water. The Gila/San Francisco Water Commission is not going unnoticed, except locally in print. A lot of elected officials and staff are working diligently to make their communities better. If the issue is controversial, we are the bad guys."
Commissioner Gabriel Ramos thanked Gutierrez for all his hard work. "We are trying to do our best for the county. We represent all constituents, not just some interest groups."
Randy Villa, Fire Management officer and General Services director, announced the DWI Program will be holding a Teen Maze in April, called Breaking Bad Habits.
"We are trying to fill a position at Corre Caminos," Villa said. "We are working with Cliff and Mimbres on transportation issues. (County Manager) Jon (Paul Saari) and Terry Trujillo of Senior Services and I will meet with the Area Agency on Aging on March 6.
"In the Public Works Department, we are trying to set up a meeting with the Forest Service on aviation issues," he continued. "Baseball season is coming up at Bataan Park. We've done a lot of painting and want to get the parking lot painted correctly. The restrooms, we're looking at trying to be able to use them year-round, but there's too much stuff clogging them up. Right now the park is being used constantly. I ask people to make sure their kids don't throw rocks on top of the canopy. We are trying to get the North Hurley project started and finished. We are at the Detention Center getting the HVAC systems to work property.
"The Business and Conference Center is at its capacity for use," Villa said. "The Forest Service is using it for training sessions and companies want to use part of it for 30 to 60 days. The Ace Hardware side has roof problems, and we want it fixed before the rains come, if they come.
"Fire. We have had human-caused fires and the windy season is upon us," Villa said. "We encourage people not to burn, but if you need to, please contact and inform your local fire departments. We are discouraging any fires. Silver City is not issuing burn permits."
Ramos suggested signs to allow people to report damage at the park. "We need to get Dugout Dougie to the schools."
"Education is key, but it is the responsibility of parents to keep their kids from damaging their park," Villa said.
Kasten said he would talk to Gutierrez about how to get funding so the Business and Conference Center plans will be ready when funding is available, "so we have a shovel-ready project. The center is full with two rooms. After the renovation, there will be 10 or more rooms."
Road Superintendent Earl Moore said his department is patching and still cleaning up from last fall's rain.
Kasten asked about a road abandonment, to which Moore said it would not have to go before the Road Abandonment Committee, because there were other roads that could access the same areas as the road does.
Gila Regional Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Brian Cunningham presented updates to the commissioners.
"One of the new things is that we will have a interventional pain management program and physician, starting in April," Cunningham said. "It is a great service for the community. We are recruiting for a general surgeon and expect to fill the position over the next month or so.
"We also have a small, complex construction job that will start the end of February," Cunningham continued. "We will be installing a new linear accelerator. It will impact our radiation services for about 90 days, but then will drastically improve radiation treatments for our patients."
On the financial side, he said in the first six months since the transition, "we turned around a $9 million loss. At the end of December, we were $68,000 in the black. It has been a lot of work, including efficiencies in our processes."
"Our focus now is on quality improvement," Cunningham said. "Our outcome will be an improved financial structure. At the end of December, we had 106 days of cash. We received our last sole community provider funding, but it has positioned us well, as we move into the Safety Net Care Pool. We have no debt and we are above 100 days of cash. There are some organizations in New Mexico that are going to struggle over this transition. Our days of cash will drop, but we're positioned well as we go into Centennial Care."
For Senate Bill 268, he thanked the commission for its support of all county needs and Gila Regional. "Especially, Commissioner Kasten and Manager Saari. It was a contentious bill for the Safety Net Care Pool. We still don't have the governor's signature, so we're not out of the woods. Even if it is signed, we will likely lose $700,000 to $1 million or more. We're prepared as we continue to improve efficiency. We are fortunate to have the county support, and I thank them, our Board of Trustees and every GRMC employee."
Kasten explained: "The state has taken our county indigent programs, and because of the Affordable Care Act has turned them into a state program. We are told how much to put in, but we have no control over how it is spent."
"We were capable of funding ourselves totally, but it's a state program and it's an election year," Kasten continued. "In the next session, our major goal is to work with the Hospital Association and NMAC to fix it. It's a state program to the Human Services Department, which divvies up the money by claims."
Treasurer Steve Armendariz said the county has collected 61 percent of its 2013 property taxes. "I want to point out what to me is the county's critical position. We've collected $3 million for the county and $7 million for the rest of the municipalities and schools. In January, once the distributions were made, we had in the bank only about $1 million, with $750,000 to $800,000 in bills. In January and February, we collected only $1 million. We have to search how to maximize cash flow."
On House Bill 59, Armendariz said there was some misinformation at the hearing. Because of the lateness of the hearing, most treasurers had left, so it was left up to the NMAC to make the presentation. "Someone said there would be legal issues. First of all, there are no legal issues. They said anything delinquent more than two years, the penalty and interest go to the state and the state was to collect it. But the state does not collect the taxes or penalty and interest. The county treasurers collect them. We want to make it if payments are made in two years or less, the county gets to keep the penalty and interest."
"Present it again," Kasten said. "It usually takes two or three years to pass a bill."
"When it was asked to be pulled, Rep. Martinez said it was because of legal issues," Armendariz said. "I'm asking you for a little more funding to spend a little more time at the session around the time our issues come up—at least fuel to get up there and back."
Saari pointed out there is no line item for the issue, but it will be considered.
Assessor Mary Guthrie said her office would be having a training officer from the state present training to her staff. "And I ask property owners to come into my office to claim their family exemption, and the veterans, too. If you are 65 years of age or older, and the household income is less than $32,000, you can request to have your rate frozen."
Clerk Robert Zamarripa announced the sign up for the June primary would be in the Clerk's office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 11. It costs $50 cash to register for the primary. Those running this year are Commissioner Districts 1 and 2, the assessor, the sheriff and Magistrate Courts 1 and 2 judges.
Ramos asked to invite Game and Fish. "Why are they removing catfish and bass from Bill Evans Lake down to the border, so they can put in the loach minnow? I would like to know the recreational and economic impact. We also ask for a GIS person at the next Eco-Watershed Committee meeting, because we are trying to locate the wildland-urban interface areas to protect."
He said it's baseball time to register, with it ending Feb. 28 for Copper and Silver Little League.