by Charlie McKee
Mayor Michael Morones began the Monday, Apr. 21, Silver City Town Council meeting by proclaiming May 6, 2014, as Give Grande! New Mexico Day. It is an "online giving day" in which the community and the nation can donate money to non-profit organizations that "move our town forward," as stated by the Mayor. The donations can be made over a 24 hour period on May 6 via the Give Grande! NM website.
Peter Burrows then spoke to the Council as a private citizen during the Public Input portion of the meeting. He informed them that he would be on the Council's agenda in a future meeting to propose modification to Silver City's election code to emulate Albuquerque's code, which requires a photo ID when voters cast their ballots during elections. Burrows stated that this will help prevent voter fraud.
During the Comments section of the meeting, Councilor Cynthia Bettison encouraged residents to participate in Comcast Cares Day on Saturday, Apr. 26, in support of the MRAC Youth Mural Project. She also asked citizens to be very careful of bicyclists during the Tour of the Gila bicycle race event next week. Morones seconded that request, urging Town residents to keep vigilant in driving and "slow down, be extra cautious, be patient, and leave early," giving bicyclists special consideration while they are visiting Silver City.
The 3rd Quarter Visitor Center Report was presented by Cissy McAndrew, Executive Director of the Southwest New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce (Green Chamber), during the Reports section of the meeting. McAndrew reported that the Visitor Center statistics show a very positive trend in the increase in number of visitors in FY 2014 over FY 2012 and 2013. The Visitor Center has recorded more than 12,000 visitors to date in FY 2014. McAndrew noted that Silver City's recent nationwide publicity in the New York Times and Smithsonian Magazine articles, which were not paid advertising, has brought national recognition and more visitors to Silver City. In addition, the success of the Arts and Cultural District's (ACD) paid advertising campaigns in regional publications, such as Sunset and New Mexico Magazines, has been reflected in visitors' comments about the ads at the Visitor Center. The five regional states of New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, and California remain the top five of the "Top Ten States" for visitors to the area. Silver City's Downtown and the Gila National Forest and Cliff Dwellings are the clear frontrunners in the "Top Ten Attractions." McAndrew then reported that the ACD will be taking over the management of the Visitor Center in the near future. The Green Chamber office will be moving to downtown Silver City and will focus on its "Buy Local" campaign, supporting local businesses, and encouraging entrepreneurship in Silver City.
The next report was from the Town of Silver City's Utilities Department, continuing the Town's dual-pronged effort to educate the new Mayor and Council on its departments and functions and to prepare for the upcoming budget process. Robert Esqueda, Director of the Utilities Department, explained the functions and responsibilities of his staff in operating and maintaining the Town's water and sewer services, as well as managing its Waste Water Treatment Plant. These functions include water sampling and testing; line repair and flushing; customer service; line location for digging; sewer maintenance; and major project management of water and sewage system improvements, including engineering. Funding for major projects is often through grants and matching funds. Esqueda reported that grant funding for the F Street sewer improvement project had been awarded in 2013, but that the funds had not been received from the State almost a year later. Councilor Bettison remarked that the State's procedures under the new Administration had slowed the bureaucratic process significantly with respect to funds disbursement and that she would pursue the issue with the Municipal League. Esqueda noted that the Utilities Department was also applying for a grant through the New Mexico Colonias Infrastructure Project Fund for a major water and sewage improvement project on Chihuahua Hill. At the conclusion of Esqueda's report, Mayor Morones praised the Department, stating that its 18 staff manage to serve more than 10,000 residents with little or no complaints and that they are doing a "fantastic job."
Lastly, during the Public Hearing and New Business portions of the meeting, the Council approved the following items:
- Restaurant Liquor License Application #904159 for Little Toad Creek Brewery and Distillery at 200 N. Bullard Street to add New Mexico wines to their restaurant service, in addition to their brewer's license to serve beer and spirits.
- Mayor's re-appointment of Stacy Domino-Mrazik as Chair of the Cemetery Board.
The meeting was then adjourned.