By Mary Alice Murphy

At the May 20, 2014 Grant County Board of Commissioners work session, Commission Chairman Brett Kasten called for a moment of silence for Jane Hall and the Hall family. Commissioner Ron Hall "lost the love of his life, Jane, over the weekend."

Following the brief silence, Kasten called for a public hearing and discussion regarding the Viva Santa Rita Subdivision Assessment District.

Dolores Dominguez, county ordinance officer, said the district has been created. "We had to wait to see if anyone wanted to file an objection. None were received."

She said county staff made some minor corrections to the roll, mostly format and spelling of names.

"We will vote to approve this district on Thursday," Kasten said.

The next item for the special meeting was to approve or disapprove a purchase agreement to purchase fuel tanks at the Grant County Airport from Western Bank.

Acting County Manager Abigail Robinson, said the cost for the tanks was $132,988. "I understand we got a good deal. The market price would be $400,000 to $500,000. We have a grant that will reimburse the county $100,000."

County Planner Anthony Gutierrez said he was glad the county was doing it, because the lack of fuel at the airport had caused some problems in fighting the Signal Fire.

"We have a lot of hoops to go through and are working hard to get the process going," Robinson said. "We will put the fuel in place as quickly as possible."

The commissioners approved the fuel tanks purchase and adjourned the special meeting.

Commissioners, during the work session, reviewed Thursday's regular meeting agenda and heard county reports.

The regular meeting will feature a public hearing for discussion and approval of imposition of a fireworks restrictions proclamation, declaring extreme or severe drought conditions.

Robinson said the commissioners' packets had supporting documentation, which included the National Interagency Fire Center's National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for May, June and July through August 2014. In May and June, above-normal fire potential is seen for southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, moderating to normal for July through August, as an El Niño is forming in the Pacific, which should bring a robust monsoon season.

Linda Vasquez, financial officer, gave the expenditures report of $806,306.19. She said no extraordinary expenses were incurred for the month. To a question about a cash flow report, she said she would present that during the first commission meeting in June.

The Non-Profit Resource Group, a service of The National Center for Frontier Communities, will present an update to the commissioners for the support of $7,000. The representatives will tell how the money was used in the community.

Commissioners will approve or disapprove the submittal of missing Public Employees Retirement Association reports by the Santa Rita Volunteer Fire Department for the years, 2003, 2004 and 2005, which had been reconstructed using department records.

An intergovernmental transfer of a 2004 Chevy Cavalier from Senior Services to Corre Caminos for $499 will be considered. "It was inspected by the Road Department and released for the director to drive," General Services Officer Randy Villa said.

Commissioner Gabriel Ramos commented that he didn't want to make it a habit to transfer vehicles for the private use of a single person to drive back and forth.

Commissioners will be asked to approve a memorandum of understanding amending the bargaining unit contract for promotional employment in the Road Department only.

Robinson explained the amendment would allow the Road Department to promote from within from labor to truck driver and up the ladder. Superintendent Earl Moore will train employees ongoing up the chain of positions.

"It has already been negotiated," Robinson said. "I received notice from the union president that the Road Department has approved it.

Under resolutions, commissioners will consider adopting the policies and procedures for the Grant County Senior Program; a resolution to confirm the assessment roll for Viva Santa Rita Subdivision Community Area Improvement District; and publication of a notice of intent to adopt the Viva Santa Rita Subdivision Community Area Improvement District Assessment Levy Ordinance.

Robinson said the last item would be on the agenda for approval at the June 12 meeting.

Commissioners will recess and reconvene as the Grant County Indigent and Health Plan Claims Board to approve 340 claims for $190,658.63.

After the regular meeting county reports, commissioners will go into executive session to continue the process on the county manager, according to Robinson.

During county reports at the work session, Detention Center Administrator Mike Carrillo said he has three vacancies, but a new hire has begun field training. Carrillo met with the warden in Doña Ana County and asked about training possibilities. "I was told they could do the training of our officers at no cost and will provide a canine to us when needed. The state does have a canine available. It would be funded by HIDTA, and all we would provide would be the officer, who the state will train. It is a total benefit for us, without much cost. It will help crack down on contraband in the facility."

Road Department Superintendent Earl Moore said the department is hauling chips and will be doing chip-sealing of several roads over the first two weeks of June. He also reported the slabs to finish the fair barn would be completed by the end of the week.

Villa said the Senior Program had lost a site manager. Hood ranges would be improved at the Gila and Santa Clara senior centers. He said he was reviewing a Department of Transportation report on Corre Caminos. "The fire, as of today, is 75 percent contained and they are scaling back on personnel. Gabe Holguin (Gila National Forest fire officer) will be here Thursday to give you an update. I want to remind people that conditions are very volatile out there. Tyrone Volunteer Fire Department was busy over the weekend and there was a fire in the Mimbres. I would like to thank the VFDs for their work. There was a threat of the Signal Fire getting over Allie Canyon. Silver City Fire Department was covering Whiskey Creek VFD. I thank all of them for their collaboration. There were people and property in the way of this fire. The training of the VFDs has been helpful, and I thank the commission for providing the equipment."

He said Public Works personnel were striping the Bataan Park parking lot, including with fire lanes. Handrails were being installed on the steps to the concession stands.

"Freeport-McMoRan gave us $5,000 for the skeet shooting house, which will start quickly," Villa continued. "We're working with Extension for a secure room. The Conference Center is busy. When you rent the facility, a deposit is required for a reason. We want kids and parents to have fun, but we will recoup expenses. I want to thank Earl for blading a county road because of a lot of traffic connected to the fire.

"I also want to relay my deepest sympathy to Commissioner Hall and his family," Villa said.

Kasten requested that Villa ask Holguin to talk about the smoke coming from the Arizona fires.

Gutierrez said he was trying to catch up and finish projects that Jon Saari was working on before he left. "I have had several meetings with the DOT on scoping projects. They have some safety programming funds we could use for the Kirkland Road intersection. We also talked about long-range planning for economic development, including four lanes into Silver City."

As for the Gila/San Francisco Water Commission, he described the last meeting as "rough. I will try to tame it using some Commission techniques." He said he would find out how the county fared on Colonias funding on June 4, to see if Rosedale Road had been funded. "FEMA is going to review the flood plains maps and the methodology we use. They will be here for a week-long visit. If we can to remove any items from the Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan, we need documentation. The next ICIP is due in September. We need a jumpstart. We have some issues with infrastructure."

Kasten suggested the issue be discussed at the second meeting in June.

"I want to post notices for public input on projects," Gutierrez said. "I'm working with the Council of Governments on the Stronger Economies Together projects. We are doing some good work regionally. Whatever other counties do has an effect on us. All local governments in the four-county area signed the MOU, which has been used continually for grants."

Ramos asked for an update on the Copper Trail from Santa Clara to Bayard.

"There is a lot of foot traffic," Gutierrez said. "The DOT requires a 14-foot buffer and barrier between the road and the trail. We looked at moving the trail downslope, but if we can get it on top of the slope it reduces the cost significantly. The DOT is on board with the effort."

"That was a heck of a presentation you gave," Ramos said to Gutierrez. "Thank goodness no one has been hit, but that makes us not eligible for safety funding."

Gutierrez said he plans to meet with Engineers Inc. on the project. Kasten asked who was taking the lead.

"We wanted Santa Clara to take the lead, but it will require a 14 percent match," Gutierrez said. "I said we could help with engineering and plans."

Ramos noted that 80 percent of the trail would be in the county. Kasten said it would be "neat" to get the trail all the way to the 32nd Street Bypass.

Vasquez said she has uploaded the budget, which will be discussed at a special meeting at 9 a.m. Wednesday, May 28, in order to get the budget submitted to the state by June 1.

Treasurer Steve Armendariz said the county has received $781,400 so far for its portion of property taxes. "If you combine the receipts from April 19 to May 19, we collected $1.25 million, which is an 86 percent collection rate. We have no backlog. I thank the public for being attentive to paying its taxes." He asked for a larger supplies budget for this time of year.

Assessor Mary Guthrie said she received 170 tax protests out of 29,000 notices of valuation sent out. "I'm still working on the protests, which must be addressed individually, but I plan to finish by the end of the month to be able to provide the yield control report to the county to help determine revenue for next year."

Clerk Robert Zamarripa said only 598 ballots had been issued so far, "which is pretty low. I want to remind voters that early voting is open in the Clerk's Office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and at the Bayard Community Center from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday for the primary election on June 3.

"If you're not going to vote, don't gripe," Kasten said.

Robinson said she is working on the fuel purchase for the airport, and the county will have to purchase aviation fuel for at least $20,000. "We want you to give approval, so we don't have to have a special meeting. We may be able to get an ongoing contract. At this point, there are a lot of sorts of unknowns."

Kasten said: "Whatever we can do is what we should do."

Ramos suggested finding out from the Forest Service how much fuel was used for the fire.

Robinson said the costs would be about $40,000 for aviation fuel and about $30,000 for jet fuel.

She also said she was looking at the Light Duty policy, for instance at the jail, where the county is paying for one working on light duty, but also paying for the position to keep it open. "The administration is talking about removing the light duty policy, because if a worker gets hurt, he or she will still get workman's comp. Personnel at the Sheriff's Department and the Detention Center tend to get injured more. I will present the issue at the next meeting, because it is costing the county quite a lot."

Ramos congratulated the Cobre baseball team and the Silver baseball and softball teams for state championships, and the Cobre girls for a second place finish. The Cliff track team also got a second place at state. He noted that summer leagues were also underway.

Kasten concurred on recognizing the teams, because "three first places and 1 second at state were great. I hope we can get the teams here for proclamations at the June 12 meeting."

He also announced that plans for a memorial service for Jane Hall would be held July 3.

The meeting was adjourned.

Live from Silver City

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