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You are here: HomeNewsFront Page News ArticlesTown Council approves most items on long agenda 060914; discusses water rates again

Town Council approves most items on long agenda 060914; discusses water rates again

 

By Mary Alice Murphy

During public input, Alan Mong, resident, reminded people that bullying and harassment are never appropriate, especially not when aimed at those participating in an event, such as happened in last year's Fourth of July parade. "I ask the Silver City-Grant County Chamber of commerce to make sure someone is monitoring and walking along with the floats, so others don't sneak in."

A resident said he would speak to noise, revisited. "This is the fourth time in the past year, I've complained to you about the loud, annoying vehicles that continue to make people suffer in this town. Even though more citations are being given out, the noise issue continues. I also ask that speed limits be enforced to increase the quality of life for us in Silver City."

Nancy Gordon said she has been working on the Waterworks building for four years. "I'm glad to see it as a high priority on the ICIP (Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan). The repointing of the gable is almost complete. We will hold a historic replastering workshop in July, but we're having trouble getting the EPA grant off the ground." She said the EPA rejected the group's suggestions, because the application did not specify whether the building was for commercial or residential use. "It is town property, which is the one who should make the decision on what it will become. Technically, it's a utilities item. It got burgled over Memorial Day weekend. We would like to request you put a mobile home on the property, so someone is keeping watch over it."

Susie Seidentop said she, at the May council meeting, was moved by a poem read by the new poet laureate about the peace and quiet of the wilderness. "I ask the police to continue to work on quiet zones, until the entire town is a quiet zone."

During council comments, Councilor Cynthia Bettison said she attended the advanced municipal leadership conference to "make sure I am the best councilor I can be."

She said at the Municipal League board of directors, of which she is a member at large, discussion was held on the New Mexico Finance Authority and Department of Finance and Administration delays on grant agreements. "We also discussed hold harmless, because of its impact to the bottom line. There will be an increase in taxes on the local levels. Please continue to contact me on plastic bag issues. On the water rate structure I have spoken with Mr. (Alex) Brown (town manager)."

Brown said, because June is the hottest month and the town pumps more water, he wants to compare the month's low users with historical data.

"My concern is, in the water conservation plan, that alwe don't penalize the low-income residents," Bettison said. "I understand the need for raising rates, because we have to ensure that the enterprise fund is neutral, what comes in equals what goes out, while maintaining the infrastructure and necessary employees."

Councilor Lynda Aiman-Smith said she echoed what Bettison had said, because "fixed costs are always there. I am coming up on my 100 days in office, and I said I would meet with constituents. I want to be engaged. Meet me as a profession, and don't bully me or I'll walk away."

Councilor José Ray had no comments.

While waiting for Councilor Guadalupe Cano to arrive, Mayor Michael Morones announced a special meeting July 15 on Lodgers' Tax. "I also think reducing the speed on Bullard Street would be very effective in lowering the noise level."

After a short break, Morones announced the next regular council meeting would take place next week Tuesday, June 17.

Cano apologized for her lateness as she had just driven in from Albuquerque.

Interim Fire Chief Tim Heidrick presented a slightly revised drought restrictions from the ones presented at the last meeting, having taken out some language which went against state regulations.

As part of a public hearing, councilors approved the final plat for a mobile home park at 2180 32nd Street Bypass. The development is planned by owner Duane Rigg of Rigg Properties LLC.

In unfinished business, councilors approved Ordinance No. 1228, authorizing the issuance of gross receipts tax improvement revenue notes, in two series in an aggregate principal amount not to exceed $1.5 million to finance acquisition and construction of certain capital improvements for the benefit of the town and its residents and pay costs of issuance of the Series 2014 notes. The attorney noted that the notes do not add any taxes, but will be the third lien on GRT funding. The plan is to seek purchase from local or regional banks.

Brown said he has received a list of banks. He also wishes to add one item to the list of capital improvements—a liner for the swimming pool for $150,000. "We are paying off other notes. The 2011 revenue note was paid off last week, which was about $200,000 a year. This one is estimated to cost about $180,000 a year. We want to keep the debt service at the same level."

Morones asked what the other projects were. Brown said they included the golf course concession stand, bathroom and clubhouse, as well as police and fire vehicles and ambulances, and the pool liner.

The next item approved was an ordinance amending Town Ordinance No. 722, relating to the imposition of the fourth increment of municipal GRT. Brown said the 1/8 of 1 percent was moved to pay the 2011 note and now will go back to its original source. Morones said the amount has been budgeted for, and "we are moving it into more practical needs."

Aiman-Smith said she wanted to emphasize how important improving the roads is.

Morones concurred and said the gas tax had been allocated for roads, but the amount had been dropping for years, because of more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The last piece of unfinished business was an ordinance amending the economic development plan. "At the time, the ordinance mirrored state statute, but now that the town has the Arts and Cultural District and the town is meeting LEDA criteria, the plan was changed to reflect the state statute's added flexibility."

Several items in new business were approved. They included a special dispenser permit application and waiver from St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church for the Clay Poker Tournament Clay Festival fundraiser and a special dispenser permit and waiver from El Grito HeadStart School for the Clay Gala fundraiser.

Councilors adopted the 2016-2020 ICIP, which establishes priorities for needed capital projects in the town. Three public meetings were held, but turnout was disappointing. The ICIP is a living document that the state can edit.

Morones asked if the town could add something without removing another item.

Jaime Embick of the Community Development Department said the town could change anything before submitting to the state by the Sept. 4 deadline, but the state could edit at any time.

Brown noted that the town could add emergency items, "but we've never had to do that."

Councilors were asked to and did approve a local government grant agreement between the town and New Mexico Finance Authority. Brown explained that although the water conservation plan had been completed and paid for using town funds, reimbursement could not come until the agreement was approved and signed. "First we were told we needed the agreement for the grant, then we were told we didn't, so we went on and spent the money and created the plan. Now to reimburse us, NMFA is requiring the agreement. In previous years, we didn't need this agreement."

Bettison noted that the plan was approved last August or September.

"I had to do follow up at the Environment Department and then sent it to the NMFA," Brown said. "They let us know now that the department needs a grant agreement."

Also approved was a resolution with the Local Government Road Fund Program of the New Mexico Department of Transportation for chip-sealing and fog-sealing a number of roads next summer. "The agreement is for $80,943, of which the NMDOT will pay 75 percent, and the town 25 percent. Because the project is next summer, the match will come out of the following budget."

A notice of intent to pass an ordinance approving the executive of a memorandum of understanding, which creates a long-term lease of the Silco Theater to the Corporation for Downtown Development, doing business as Silver City MainStreet Project. "When we receive this loan agreement, we will have this lease agreement in front of us. This is the first reading," Brown said.

Bettison clarified that the long-term lease would supersede the short-term lease in order to refinance and extend the term of the loan, as well as add additional funding to the loan.

Morones said the ordinance is being put in place because the lease payments would meet the town's debt obligation. "The town utilizes its ability to leverage the funding and MainStreet meets the debt service."

Brown added that it also allows the town to apply for grants through MainStreet without anti-donation issues.

Morones said he knew it has been a slow process, but in a tight economic time, "we are doing it in a fiscally responsible manner and meeting the needs of the citizens." The notice of intent was approved.

Another notice of intent was approved for the second reading of the ordinance amending the water and sewer rate charges.

"At the last council meeting, I explained the need to raise the deposit," Brown said. "Now you pay $100. If you own the home, after the first year, the deposit is applied to the water bill. If you are a renter, the deposit is kept until the final bill is paid. We are raising it to $200, so the town recovers lost revenue from those who skip out on their bills."

Town Attorney Robert Scavron said the ordinance also includes a penalty for those who bypass a meter and steal water. "The resolution allows for an estimate of how much was stolen and the penalty will be three times as much as what was owed. It's sort of a civil settlement. If the person did it willfully, we can cite for theft, which makes the person liable for $500 and 90 days in jail. That is a disincentive to pay up. Three times the amount makes it a disincentive (to steal)."

Morones said he is the sponsor of the notice of intent. "We seem to be raising fees in the community, which will hit especially the low-income. Those with low incomes are also owners of the town's water infrastructure. In reality these new rates and deposits are not any more than in the rest of the nation. We've been subsidizing these rates."

Aiman-Smith made a comment: "The concept of fairness is never an absolute. If we are really low, that means we are unfairly low."

A bid was awarded to Southwest Paving & Concrete for a bid of $358,291.60 plus gross receipts tax for sewer and water extensions in Phase 1B of Vistas de Plata. The funding is coming from a colonias grant. The only expenditure by the town will be for pipe for the water line.

A reply to a request for proposal for the municipal refueling station was recommended to be remanded back to the evaluation committee to seek some answers to questions and to call the company's references.

As a final bit of new business, councilors endorsed councilor Bettison for her candidacy for the position of treasurer for the New Mexico Municipal League Board of Directors. Bettison said she believes it is important to ensure the executive committee broadly represents the state.

"Having served on the board," Brown said, "it is a great benefit for the town to be on the executive committee, which can make independent decisions, and not rely on the board."

"Not one other member of the executive committee, representing his or her municipality, stands to lose as much as we will with the loss of hold harmless," Bettison said. "Most of them are smaller than we are and qualify for additional community funding."

"I concur," Morones said. "The southwest corner has historically been underrepresented in state government. The north dominates.

Bettison asked Scavron if she should abstain. "No, vote for yourself," he said.

The meeting was then adjourned.

 

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