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Grant County Commission likely to declare Hanover water emergency

By Mary Alice Murphy

Grant County commissioners reviewed an agenda, which was mostly "business as usual," starting with the financial reports, which showed expenditures of $866,027.62 in the two-week period since the last meeting. Financial Officer Linda Vasquez said there was nothing out of the ordinary in the expenditures.

Later in the meeting, during discussion on the one resolution on the regular meeting agenda, commissioners talked about declaring a water emergency for the Hanover Mutual Domestic Water Consumer Association, which also serves Fierro and Vanadium.

Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments Executive Director Priscilla Lucero said the declaration of an emergency would help Hanover pay Bayard for the water it is providing to the water association.

Lucero said federal funding could be used to pay Bayard, but the water association is in danger of using more than its contract with the city allows. "The New Mexico Environment Department will also be working with Hanover to get its fiscal in line," she said. "Bayard needs to provide for its own citizens primarily. In the worst scenario, if Bayard cannot provide water, Hanover had only a one-day supply. One of its wells is not pumping any water, and the other only 10 gallons a minute. Someone has to turn the pump off and on throughout the day to get enough water pressure."

"There is a concern about whether the wells can be rehabilitated or whether it will be necessary to drill deeper or even drill new ones," Lucero continued. "The great majority of the citizens are senior citizens and cannot pick up even a bucket of water. The USDA will be meeting with Bayard and Hanover."

Commissioner Gabriel Ramos asked for clarification. "You're saying that even if Hanover wanted to use its own water, there is not enough?"

"That's right," Lucero said. "We think we can change the scope of work on a recent Colonias award, if we have the emergency declaration. There is also another $100,000 in capital outlay and $180,000 in Water Trust Board funding we can use."

Commission Chairman Brett Kasten concurred: "water in Hanover is tough. Would we not be better off going into another well field? This needs to be in the Grant County Water Commission overall plan."

Lucero said Hanover is mentioned in the plan. "With the emergency declaration, which was already passed last evening by the Hanover Mutual Domestic, if we apply for Colonias funding, which isn't until late this year or next year, it would bring the priority up to the top, but this will take months. The fundings I've mentioned are available, but we couldn't get a capital outlay agreement until September or October."

"Bayard is limited by the amount it has, rather than the water rights it uses, right?" Kasten asked. "Maybe we should spend the money on another Bayard well field."

"I'm not sure another well field is in its planning agreement," Lucero said. "It's important to get the planning done. We are looking at a December application for Colonias. We can also look at reversion dollars, which can be applied to a previous year applicant. Eddie (Evatt, chairman of the Hanover MDWCA) is waiting for a call from the Rural Water Department to detect if there are any leaks in its system.

"Bayard can only allocate up to 200,000 gallons of water a month," Lucero continued. "It's not going to exceed that and will have to cut it off at 200,000, so as not to jeopardize the contract."

The commissioners, at their Thursday regular meeting, will approve or disapprove a list of new members for the Grant County Community Health Council and a proposed plan.

The members up for approval are Marilyn Alcorn of Silver Adult Care Services, representing the seniors sector; Brian Cunningham, Gila Regional Medical Center chief executive officer, for the hospital sector; Alicia Edward, The Volunteer Center executive director, the food and nutrition sector; Robert Mendoza, Cobre Consolidated Schools superintendent, Cobre Schools sector; and Lon Streib, Silver Consolidated Schools superintendent, Silver Schools sector.

"I would like to acknowledge Cindy McClean as our new steering committee member," GCCHC Chairwoman Lucero said.

Lucero explained that 1½ years ago, more than 5,000 Grant County residents completed the assessment survey. "That is a 24 percent return rate, the best in the state, with the average being 10 percent. We got a wonderful response, and the data can be used and broken out by community, by respondents' age and other ways, if you need the data. We created fact sheets for each municipality and the county governments. We will present these fact sheets to the corresponding entity. And we seek approval of our plan."

Lucero said the Health Council came up with four priorities at last year's retreat, and these helped develop the official health and wellness plan of the county.

Commissioner Ron Hall said the Health Council is a great asset, and that he is excited about working on the priorities.

Commissioners will appoint two members to the GRMC Board of Trustees, one of whom will be a physician. The applicants include Darrick P. Nelson, M.D., who is a current board member; John M. Stanley, M.D., a former board member; and county residents Gary Stailey and Joe Ramirez, seeking appointment.

Also to be appointed are nine members to the Parks and Recreation Committee, with five from the county departments and four from the general public. Present applicants are: County Commissioner Gabriel Ramos, General Services Director and Fire Management Officer Randy Villa, Public Works Director Justin Reese, General Services executive assistant Tisha Moyers, and anticipated applicant, Emergency Manager Gilbert Helton. From the community are four applicants: Joseph M. Mondragon, Cheryl Moutray, Frank L. Donohue, and Frederick J. Marquez.

Under contracts, commissioners will consider three DWI Program annual contracts, including professional services contract for the recovery management center, and memoranda of understanding with the Bayard Police Department and the Grant County Sheriff's Department.

Commission Chairman Brett Kasten asked how many ankle bracelets the program was utilizing. McClean said 20 are used for the alcohol SCRAM program and three for GPS.

Also to be considered are a memorandum of understanding between Luna County and Grant County for each to house one another's inmates when needed at a cost of $96.44 a day. Another contract between the two counties addresses the cost of Grant County housing its juveniles at the Luna County facility at a rate of $128.64 a day per person. Also included in the contract are transportation costs.

Added to Thursday's agenda by Interim County Manager Abigail Robinson are several items for Senior Services, including senior employment, nutrition services incentive program and a direct purchase of services vendor agreement.

Commissioners will approve or disapprove 435 Health Plan Claims for $48,813.70 for June 18, 2014. "This is the last with the old set of claims," Robinson said. "I'm not sure how we will receive funding in the future."

"I think we send a 1/12 of gross receipts tax to the state, and we don't need any more reports," Kasten said. "The state will take care of it."

The next article will cover county reports.

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