At left, for "Cynthia Bettison" District 1 Councilor Cynthia Bettison holds the soon to be banned plastic bags in one hand and an approved reusable bag in the other.
At right, for "Hunger Week" Pam Eley, office manager for the Southwest Council of Governments accepts a proclamation from Silver City Mayor Michael Morones declaring July 14 to July 18, 2014, as "New Mexico Hunger Week."
Article and photos by Roger Lanse
The council approved an ordinance first presented to the council six weeks ago by District 1 Councilor Cynthia Bettison that amends a portion of Chapter 40 of the municipal code by adding a new section dealing with the reduction of single-use plastic carryout bags.
The ordinance, which allows only reusable bags, recyclable paper bags and/or cardboard boxes to be provided to customers by retailers at checkout, will go into effect six months after its adoption date, July 8, 2014.
Town Manager Alex Brown, said the plastic bags bring up very specific issues with cleanliness at the landfill. Controlling the bags when it is windy is difficult and cleaning up around the landfill is costly, according to Brown. "Future landfill permitting depends on solving this issue," Brown said. "It's the primary problem. We are currently using JPPO to help clean up outside the landfill. It's not such a huge issue when it's not windy."
Several people spoke to the council urging them to approve the measure, citing trash is not attractive to tourists, the bags don't deteriorate even after 30-40 years, trashy areas have higher crime rates and it's a health issue because the plastic bag handles cut off circulation. Many supporters played show and tell with their reusable plastic, cloth and mesh bags.
Only one, Scott Terry, president of the Grant County-Silver City Chamber of Commerce, was not fully supportive, although he agreed the bags were a nuisance. He requested a 30-day postponement of the vote to allow businesses who may not have heard about the change to offer alternative suggestions. Terry said corporate businesses generally do not allow store managers to speak on behalf of the corporation on issues such as this, so he asked for time for the affected retailers to weigh in. He urged councilors to speak with the businesses, "They may have ideas no one has thought of."
Mayor Michael Morones said announcements have been placed in both local newspapers, including notices of intent and other legal notices, for six weeks. Businesses still have six months to determine how the ordinance will be implemented and how best to deal with it, Morones said.
The council approved the new ordinance.
Bettison spoke out against the pending HB641 legislation which is to be voted on by the New Mexico Legislature on Thursday, July 10. Because Silver City exceeds the 10,000 population threshold, the town stands to lose the "hold harmless" funds it has received from the state because of the exemption of food items from gross receipts tax, Bettison said.
"If the town loses those "hold harmless" funds the town would have to impose an added three-eighths of one percent tax to the current gross receipts tax on everything but food," Bettison said. "This would still result in losses to the town. The town receives $1.7 million in "hold harmless" funds now. We will take in $1.1 million if we lose those funds and increase the gross receipts tax by the three eighths of one percent, leaving us $600,000 in deficit. How are we going to provide the same services we are providing if we have a loss of revenue?
"If HB 641 is adopted this Thursday, Silver City's gross receipts tax will go up on Jan. 1, 2015, Bettison said."
Lisa Jimenez, manager of the local Non Profit Resource Group, told the council the NPRG fills in the gaps of local non profits where they are lacking. She asked the council to consider underwriting or subsidizing the consulting services her group provides to local non profits who can't afford them.
Silver City Fire Department Interim Chief Tim Heidrick told the council the U.S. Forest service removed Stage 1 fire restrictions on the Gila National Forest at 8 a.m. Tuesday, July 8.
The council approved a resolution relating to the gross receipts tax improvement revenue notes consisting of two series totaling $1,150,000, establishing the exact amount, maturity dates, rates of interest, redemption features and price. Plans for the revenue include purchasing vehicles for the police department and emergency medical services and repairing and updating the town's swimming pool.
Also approved was a new four-year contract between the town and Local 2430 International Association of Firefighters, AFL-CIO, from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2018.
An ordinance allowing the execution of a memorandum of understanding creating a long-term lease, with an option to purchase, of the Silco Theater to Silver City MainStreet was approved. An amendment (No. 24) to the MOU, which gives the town the right of first refusal should Silver City MainStreet decide to sell the theater after they purchased it, was also approved.
Another ordinance, amending Chapter 52 of the municipal code, relating to deposits for water connection and penalties for illegal use of services was approved. According to Brown, the connection fee will jump from $100 to $200 for new customers. This is an attempt to make up for customers who skip on their bill, Brown said. "We shut the water off after two and one-half months of nonpayment, which amounts to an average of about $200. The $200 connect fee is returned to the customer when they disconnect if they are current in their payments."
Landlords who include water and/or sewer and sanitation services in the rental payment are not affected by the increased connection fee.
The penalty, Brown said, for illegal use of services, is increased to 300 percent of what the cost of the services would have been.