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Grant County Commission hears public input about flashing yellow lights

By MARY ALICE MURPHY

Several residents of an area on Cottage San Road gave public input to the commissioners about a recently installed flashing yellow light that shines into homes.

Teresa Beall said the light is about a mile from U.S. 180 West. "We would like a meeting with the entities involved in putting up the light, which are the Grant County Road Department, the commissioners and the county manager, the Council of Governments, and the Department of Transportation to discuss the affected parties."

She said the light had been placed on private property, which would impact property values. "Two property owners are ready to offer an easement for straightening the road."

Gail Kinter said she had been going up and down the road for 54 years, "at first with my parents. Yes, there are accidents but it's usually because of drivers speeding, being drunk or slick roads. The lights are overkill."

Larry Zimmerman said: "My driveway is where the light is. I think better control would be better enforcement. As a result of getting a couple of tickets for speeding, I have changed my habits. The lights face into a neighbor's front door. I think expanding the shoulders would help. I've been there since 1985, and I've been watching Silva Creek ditch banks collapsing. I would welcome a chance to discuss this issue."

John Kavchar said the light is right next to his barn. "I thank Earl Moore (road superintendent), (Commissioner Ron) Hall, and (County Manager) Jon (Saari) for their responsiveness and attention to my concerns. The light affects not only me as we sat in the living room. I have been told it was up temporarily and the next placement would be farther down the road close to Manganese Creek. It's really not needed. People are speeding. A better way to effect change would be better signage warning of a large curve and the speed limit is 30 miles per hour, maybe less around the curve. I believe it could more effectively be placed at Alabama Street, where there was a fatality a few years ago. It's really hard to see traffic coming at that intersection and the light could be used to slow traffic on 180. It really annoys me when people speed on Cottage San Road."

Dorothy Swapp said the light shines into her house. "I have asked several times for the ditch to be fixed. If it isn't, it will take out the lights. Change where the signs are. I ask the line to be moved over. It's not safe there."

Commission Chairman Brett Kasten said the commission would get a committee together and "meet with you all out there."

Saari said later in the meeting that he understood that Moore had turned the light off. "We are working on the situation and trying to make it safer."

The next portion of the agenda addressed the financial reports, which covered the more-than-two-month period from the Jan. 6 meeting to the March 13 meeting.

The expenditures and financial reports were covered extensively in this Grant County Beat article: http://www.grantcountybeat.com/index.php/news/news-articles/14775-grant-county-commissioner-review-agenda-for-regular-session-at-work-session-031114-part-2

Saari explained that 57.7 percent of the budget had been collected by the end of January. "We don't usually do transfers out of the General Fund until late in the year, so the Road and Corrections funds may run in the negative."

Margaret Begay gave her annual report on the surveillance program. "We have expanded from doing the juveniles to also using surveillance for Adult Drug Court and the Magistrate Courts. We had during the past year 225 contacts. The caseloads are down with the turnover at JPPO (Juvenile Probation and Parole Office). The Magistrate Courts refer them to our office in lieu of incarceration. It costs $4 a day for a bracelet and, so far, the longest anyone has had a bracelet is 121 days for $484. It would cost $8,000 for incarceration. We have daily surveillance, with a $55,000 budget. We ask for help paying for drug test supplies. We have one full-time surveillance officer."

Hall asked if that included transportation of juveniles. He was told it did not.

Saari said it cost $4,500 a month to incarcerate a juvenile. "This program is cheaper, instead of sending them elsewhere, and even cheaper to send them elsewhere than to have our own facility for maybe eight juveniles, which would cost more than $1 million.

Commissioner Gabriel Ramos said the Southwest County Commissioners Alliance is working to turn the Hidalgo County facility into a juvenile facility.

"I'm going to ask for $12,000 more in funding," Begay said. "The additional will help pay for wear and tear on the bracelets, drug court is expanding, so we would like $75,000 total for juveniles and adults."

"Your request will certainly be considered," Kasten said

Discussion ensued on a letter supporting the designation of the two members of Mimbres Film LLC—Mike Barragree and GlennTolhurst— as the film liaison and assistant film liaison, respectively. Saari reported they had given him copies of letters from other counties and municipalities supporting the designation.

"We would endorse them for 2014-2016, and can withdraw it if there is an issue," Saari said. "They have done their homework and due diligence. It is a volunteer position. The only money they will get will be commissions if a film is done here."

It was approved.

Ramos said he had received a call from Dan Cook of the Silver City-Grant County Chamber of Commerce, which also wanted to be the liaison. "I encouraged them to work together."

Commissioners approved the intergovernmental transfer of a K9 unit and equipment to Sierra County, as the Sheriff's Department does not have an officer trained to use the dog. The dog is being boarded until the state approves the transfer.

Commissioners also approved an application from the Sheriff's Office for annual Protection Funds. The department receives $20,000 plus $400 each per officer. With 39 officers and the $20,000, the department will receive $43,400, with $33,400 for apparatus and equipment and the rest for training.

Commissioners approved a resolution for the certified 695.43 miles of county-maintained roads. They also approved a resolution authorizing the execution and delivery of a Colonias Infrastructure Fund grant agreement to pay for the preliminary engineering report on drainage and road improvements for North Hurley.  "We've been waiting a year for the agreement. We'll go out for future colonias funding for the actual drainage and road improvement construction," Saari said.

Accepted was the lowest bid for the Cliff Fairground Exhibit Hall addition to Mira Loma Inc. "The architect recommended we accept the bid, because he said he would enter into negotiations for cost savings to get within the budget," Saari said.

Ramos said it was good to see locals bidding and getting the jobs. "It keeps the money local."

Saari yielded his county report time to Rep. Rodolopho "Rudy" Martinez, who said he was in Santa Fe more than 30 days of the session, because the Appropriations Committee of which he is a member began working the week before the session.

"It was a $6.7 billion budget, with $2.74 billion for education for the entire state," Martinez said. "It was an increase for education. $842 million went to higher education, for an increase of $46 million. $950,000 went to Drug Court. A $5.9 million tuition loan was approved for health-care providers, such as nurses and practitioners. Medicaid and Mental Health received $907 million, which is a decrease because of an increase in federal funds. The Department of Health received $3.07 million for a $1.6 million increase. Some was for the FIT program and the DD waiver, which has been a contentious issue, because of the long waiting list. This will provide for services for 175 additional people. Every agency received a 2 percent to 5 percent increase.

"In the veto list, the governor vetoed $30 million, with $15 million coming from public education. There is a $4 million decrease in endowment funding," he continued. "The state changed the way universities apply for competitive funding. The large universities have staff to go for the money; the small ones don't.

"I thank the chairman and Jon for being there and working with the New Mexico Association of Counties to come up with a reasonable solution to replace the sole community provider funding," Martinez said. "Each county will give a 1/12th of one percent gross receipts tax to the state for supplemental funding.

"On a positive note, state employees received a 3 percent increase, including for attendants, which is what they now call substitute teachers," he continued. "A water resource bill to use all the universities across the state to provide hydrologic testing and a report, not including surface water."

Capital outlay included $234,000 for Bayard water line improvements; $100,000 to Hurley for its cemetery and $100,000 for its swimming pool; $174,000 to Santa Clara for water system improvements; funding to Silver City to complete its baseball field and $105,000 for ambulances; funding to the county includes $150,000 to complete the final phase of the Forgotten Veterans' Memorial; and $100,000 for information technology, $150,000 to help increase the base funding and $5 million for capital improvements to Western New Mexico University.

"Most of the time, it was slow," Martinez said, "until the last few days. We passed quite a few memorials, including a task force for veteran-owned businesses and what kind of deduction they will qualify for; and licensure for recreational therapists. It is an honor to represent Grant County, and I appreciate your support."

Saari said Martinez being on the House Appropriations Committee helped keep things going. "He found a way to get things involving us out of committee and to the floor for a vote."

"Thank you," Ramos said. "You're only a phone call away."

"You are there for us and the citizens of the community," Hall said.

"He may be the most effective at presenting bills and getting them passed through," Kasten said. "We'll stay on top of Senate Bill 268 (for hospital funding)."

Martinez said one disappointment was the money for The Volunteer Center being one of the first vetoes. "They don't seem to appreciate help for food backpacks and food distribution."

Sheriff Raul Villanueva said his department would address the speeding on Cottage San and he would serve on the committee to discuss the lights issue. "Any services that are needed, let us know about your concerns."

Zamarripa said Tuesday was a successful sign-up day with several contested races. The list can be found at http://www.grantcountybeat.com/index.php/news/news-articles/14758-candidates-who-filed-for-county-offices-toda

"At the next meeting, I will tell you the dates for Election Day and when early voting for the primary begins," Zamarripa said.

Ramos said he welcomed his opponent and asked him to speak. Moses Clark said he was nervous, but it was nice to run for County Commissioner, because he would like to serve the county well.

"Several people have called me about the hospital wanting to outsource business officer services," Ramos said. "If there is any truth to it, I oppose any outsourcing."

Hall congratulated Sen. Howie Morales for being No. 1 on the ballot in the Democratic primary for governor, having received the most pre-primary delegates.

"I do not run the roads, but they are an issue we need to look into," Hall continued. "My opinion on the yellow lights is to take them down and put them on the highway, if they feel they are needed. The sheriff is working on the issue."

"My suggestion is to have Jon, the sheriff, Earl (Moore), Anthony (Gutierrez) and Hall show the residents the reports," Kasten said. "Have the meeting here and talk about the road eroding and possible realignment, along with other issues."

He thanked the people of his district for having confidence in him and not running against him.

"It takes courage to run for office," Kasten said. "You throw your private life into the public. Have fun and keep the races clean."

The meeting was adjourned.

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