By Mary Alice Murphy
As the Grant County Canvassing Board, commissioners approved the 2014 primary election results. Final results did not change from those, which can be seen at http://www.grantcountybeat.com/index.php/news/news-articles/16146-final-unofficial-results-grant-county-primary
Clerk Robert Zamarripa said the voter turnout for this primary was low. "Grant County is usually one of the highest across the state, but this year on Election Day, we had about 12 percent turnout. Early voting is usually 20-30 percent, but this year, we had a dismal 10 percent, rounded up."
He said the process went smoothly with no issues. "As soon as this one is approved, we will begin working on the General Election."
To a question, Zamarripa said the Woman's Club convenience center location was the busiest on Election Day, because it was in the middle of town, but the Conference Center and the Bayard Community Center were the next busiest.
Commission Chairman reminded the public: "We have a representative form of government. If you don't participate, you have to live with the results."
As the Board of County Commissioners, the members reviewed Thursday's regular meeting agenda, which will begin with three public hearings.
The first is about the adoption of an ordinance entitled: Viva Santa Rita Subdivision Community Area Improvement District Assessment Levy Ordinance.
County Ordinance Officer, Dolores Dominguez, said the ordinance has been advertised, as well as posted in the Clerk's Office. Property owners will have 45 days to pay in full. Monthly billing for subdivision property owners begins Aug. 1.
The second public hearing concerns the adoption of an ordinance dedicating, in quarterly installments, an amount equal to a gross receipts tax of one-twelfth (1/12) of 1 percent applied to the taxable gross receipts reported during the prior fiscal year to the newly created Safety Net Care Pool Fund.
Acting County Manager Abigail Robinson explained the ordinance does not impose a new tax, but is just "putting funds into a new pot."
Kasten put it more bluntly: 'The state is taking 1/12 of 1 percent gross receipts tax revenue from the county and putting it to a state program."
The third hearing will address a proclamation declaring extreme or severe drought conditions, with the imposition of fireworks restrictions.
Linda Vasquez, county financial officer, reported the expenditures for May 11 to June 9 were $757,208.24. She explained that $132,000 of that was for the purchase of fuel tanks at the airport, and that reimbursement has already been requested.
The cash flow report for the General Fund shows an actual cash balance of $886,992 as of April 30, 2014. Through the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 2014, projections show a cash balance of $2,126,761, with $2,105,342 held as the required three-twelfths reserve, leaving a surplus of $21,419.
The Road Fund, as of April 30, had $150,099 cash balance. As of the end of fiscal year 2014, the expected cash balance is $177,079, minus the required one-twelfth reserve of $130,935, leaving a surplus of $46,144.
The Corrections Fund had a negative $695,514 at the end of April, with transfers into the fund not having been completed. The projected cash balance at the end of the year is $54,572. No reserve is required.
Under new business, commissioners will recognize the Cobre and Silver Baseball and Softball state champions.
To be approved or disapproved are: The Airport Emergency Plan and liens against property owners for delinquent solid waste accounts.
Several contracts will be considered. The first is the DWI Grant contract. Cindy McClean, DWI coordinator, said the agreement was approved in January. "I will make some budget adjustments, but we're doing the same things, with prevention."
Commissioner Ron Hall asked if she had looked at how the money is being spent. "Some of those who need treatment are beyond prevention. Do you look at prevention versus treatment?"
"That is on our agenda today for our DWI board meeting," McClean said. "We are talking about the age when prevention efforts should begin and we are putting funds toward treatment."
Commissioner Gabriel Ramos asked if offenders are being charged for their treatments.
"We're looking at that," McClean said. "A lot of offenders can't pay, and we wouldn't stop treatment if they can't pay."
A second amendment to a joint-powers agreement with the City of Bayard for chip-sealing will be considered. Kasten pointed out that the county's chip-sealing machine is "getting long in the tooth. It's 40 years old and requiring a lot of maintenance."
Another agreement for chip-sealing will be approved or disapproved between the county and the town of Hurley.
Commissioners will consider an agreement for professional services for $25,000 plus gross receipts tax with Hughes Law LLC for advice and document drafting on the hold harmless gross receipts tax and gross receipts revenue bonds.
Also to be approved will be a one-year extension of the agreement with the High Desert Humane Society.
Several resolutions will be up for approval or disapproval.
Three resolutions will involve cooperative agreements with the New Mexico Department of Transportation, with two under the Coop Projects to patch roadway where needed on Racetrack Road, Santa Rita Mine Road, Tabor Avenue, Tyrone Mind Road and Vicente Place for $194,735; to install a concrete low-water crossing on Arena Road and footing and drainage improvement on Gage Road for $76,845; and an agreement under the School Bus Routes program to patch roadway where needed and to lay single penetration chip seal with drainage improvements and striping on Apache Street, Country Club Road, Lance Drive and Arena Road for $78,376. For each of these projects, NMDOT will fund 75 percent and the county 25 percent.
Next was a notice of intent to adopt a gross receipts tax ordinance.
Former County Manager Jon Paul Saari spoke to the issue, "because I was living it." He said the county has been discussing imposition of an additional gross receipts tax, since the Legislature, two years ago, chose to pass a bill to take away the hold harmless funding, which was put in place when the Legislature took the tax off food and medical services. "The town stands to lose $1.7 million to $1.9 million, because its primary source of income is gross receipts tax. The county will lose about $350,000 because our primary revenue is property tax. The ordinance imposes a 3/8 of 1 percent gross receipts tax to replace the hold harmless funding.
"If the county imposed the tax, we immediately lose the hold harmless," Saari said. "At the last legislative session, the legislators were trying to take away the county's ability to impose the tax. It will be on the docket for next year. The push is to take away the hold harmless, because, yeah right, the counties and municipalities are rolling in money and the state needs money.
"The federal payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILT) was reauthorized for one year in the Farm Bill, but it may or may not be reauthorized again next year,' Saari said. "To lose PILT would be a loss of $1.6 million to $1.8 million annually. The biggest department of the county is the sheriff's department. If we cut 20 deputies, we would cut only $1.2 million. The only place we can take out of the budget $1.8 million is from the sheriff's department and the jail. If you took away one person from each department, it would be $120,000. Public safety would be hardest hit.
"This gross receipts tax can give the county the option to continue to serve the community," Saari said. "It is 37 cents on $100."
"We know funding from the federal government is spotty," Kasten said. "Funding from the state is woefully inadequate, so we're stuck with taking care of ourselves."
Saari said the federal Secure Rural Schools funding was between $30,000 and $100,000 divided between the county and the schools. "It replaced a lot of one-time expenditures, so it would not be as much of a loss as would PILT.
Hall pointed out that PILT is not a federal handout: it is paid in lieu of taxes on federally owned property within the county.
Commissioners will consider a revision to the Grant County return to work and modified duty policy, in relation to county Detention Center.
Jail Administrator Mike Carrillo said he fully supports the removal of the policy, because it is cost prohibitive. Robinson explained that even if an injured officer is put into light duty, the facility still has to hire a temporary officer to fill the slot.
Also to be approved or disapproved is the submission of a completed application for financial assistance and project approval to the NMFA for funding to improve roads in the Viva Santa Rita Subdivision. Robinson said the loan would cover the cost of the project, so the county is not out the money while waiting for the assessment payments.
Anthony Gutierrez, county planner said, the finance authority agreed to work with the county, but wanted the county to ensure the loan would be repaid.
Robinson said an item would be added to the agenda—a discussion on the Corre Caminos drivers, who have petitioned to be a bargaining unit.
"You need to decide voluntarily to recognize the bargaining unit or leave it up to the employees to decide by election," Robinson said to the commissioners. "My recommendation is to let them hold elections. About 20 part-time individuals are grant funded."
At the end of the regular meeting, commissioners will go into executive session to discuss the county manager position, to discuss am employee of the sheriff's office, as well as a 2013 incident in the sheriff's office.
In county reports, Sheriff Raul Villanueva said there had been minimal issues with the rodeo. He thanked the Corre Caminos staff for providing bus service, which saved on traffic into the arena. He said calls were starting to pick up with the warmer weather, and the office is shorthanded by three employees.
Alfred Sedillo, deputy treasurer, said the county has collected 87.85 percent of billed taxes. Delinquent notices will be sent out at the end of the month.
He said a recent inspection of county buildings had shown only minor things. "I want to get the safety committee back on track."
Carrillo gave his May 20-June 10 report. "We have two vacancies. The Western New Mexico Counseling students are partnering with us for the inmate re-entry program. We are doing a needs assessment as a component of the inmate support program for re-entry into the community to cut down recidivism."
He said several officers would attend Department of Corrections training in Las Cruces, with them either going back and forth or giving them per diem to spend the night. "We're deciding which would be cheaper—per diem or overtime." The jail has 82 inmates. To a question about being reimbursed for holding state inmates, Carrillo said the county has no control over whether it houses state prisoners and juveniles.
Gutierrez said he was trying to close out a lot of grants before the end of the fiscal year. "We closed the EDA strategic plan grant and were encouraged to apply for more monies. We will do the final North Hurley project inspection and it is pretty much complete. Engineers Inc. is doing drainage assessment for the Colonias project in North Hurley. We were awarded Colonias funding for Rosedale Road. We have a lot of in-kind match, because we will do our own milling and low water crossing."
"Overall at the Colonias Infrastructure Fund awards, Grant County did pretty well," he continued. "Bayard got $125,000 to replace water pipes; Santa Clara got $628,000 to build the water extension from Arenas Valley; Silver City got two projects—$489,623 for street improvements and $591,905 for a belt filter press to increase sludge dewatering; Tyrone Mutual Domestic Water $487,253 to replace a small water line with a larger one; and Hurley, $708,749 for road and drainage improvements on Cortez Avenue. Out of $14 million, Grant County got $3 million.
"As for the AWSA, it's getting close to crunch time," Gutierrez said. "I have made recommendations to the ISC, which had questions on the reservoir project. I suggested solar power for delivery. I looked into methods used in California to generate power within the pipeline. The cost is initially higher, but it reduces operating and maintenance costs. The Gila/San Francisco Water Commission will meet next week. I asked the ISC to again use effluent but to put it into wetlands upstream from the reservoir, to let nature clean the water."
He said the DOT is working on a statewide transportation plan, for transit, roads and economic development. "The ICIP is due in September. We will have public meetings. The plan is directly related to county infrastructure needs." He suggested holding the public meetings prior to the county meetings to get more participation.
Randy Villa, General Services and Fire Management Officer, said, as of July, no texting will be allowed except in case of emergency. Corre Caminos handled 464 passengers for the rodeo. The Horseman's Association usually gives a donation, but not this time. The Sheriff encouraged the county to use the transit service. Corre Cantinas was also available.
In the Senior Program, two site manager positions need to be filled. In public works, the ball field hand rails are complete, as is the striping of the parking lot. July 15 will be the kickoff for the long-term and short-term plans for the airport. The Courthouse is being painted. The old sheriff's office needs a new roof and HVAC. If the project is approved, the state will cover the cost. He said a couple of small fires off Little Walnut had been reported on Wednesday and Saturday. Because the airport manager is retiring, Villa is also working on lease agreements at the airport.
Robinson said she received the emergency procurement permit for purchasing three months worth of fuel for the tanks at the airport. "Then we will negotiate for regular purchases."
Ramos thanked the voters for supporting him in the primary. "I will continue to do the best I can. I would also like to request the county get a sound person to control the sound, especially for those who come in to record meetings, because of feedback into CATS recordings."
The meeting was adjourned.