By Jim Owen
Santa Clara village trustees, during their regular monthly meeting on Thursday, discussed employee benefits, construction projects, community cleanup efforts and other matters.
The officials decided to offer Public Employees Retirement Association benefits to village employees. The workers will pay 8.5 percent of their salaries into the account, while the village is to contribute an amount equal to 7.4 percent of the payroll. Officials included the expense in the budget they crafted for the 2014-15 fiscal year.
Twenty-seven part-time and full-time employees, as well as the mayor and trustees, are eligible for the PERA plan. Board members noted that, while Santa Clara cannot afford to pay workers as much as those in Silver City and other larger towns, the village can improve employee retention by offering the retirement benefits.
The trustees also agreed to allow village workers to take part in a state "deferred compensation" program, a savings account for public employees.
In other business, the board agreed to extend for 45 days the completion date for construction of a low-water crossing on Mill Street. The project, now projected to be finished by Aug. 8, has been delayed by the need to back-order sewer covers.
A new crossing is required because water lines and sewer pipes keep breaking when Cameron Creek floods. Officials hope to get the new infrastructure in place before the current "monsoon" season produces heavy enough rains to cause damage.
The utility lines running through the creek bottom will be protected by a concrete structure, which will replace a dirt crossing, at Mill Street. The state Office of Natural Resource Trustee awarded a $280,000 grant for the project.
Mayor Richard Bauch reported on several other construction projects. One of them would entail connecting the village to Silver City's water system, to serve residents during emergencies like well failures.
The board has applied for a $680,000 grant from the federal Colonias infrastructure program to tie into Silver City's water line in Arenas Valley, which passes within 200 yards of Santa Clara's tanks. The village's 10 percent share of the project's cost would have to be repaid within 20 years.
Bauch also updated the board on a $68,180 grant from the state Transportation Department's Municipal Arterial Program. The money will be used to design upgrades to Bellm Street, from Oak Street to U.S. 180. More funding will be required to repave the street, and install sidewalks and a drainage system.
In addition, the village is to receive $500,000 from the federal Community Development Block Grant program to install sidewalks and streetlights along the three blocks of Bayard Street from Oak Street to Maple Street. Another $40,000 is coming from the state Transportation Department's Local Government Road Fund to repair Fellner Street.
Mayor Pro-Tem Albert Esparza presented to the board a report of the village's Safety Committee. He said protective vests, sporting Santa Clara's logo, have been purchased for Maintenance Department employees.
The department wants to establish a community-cleanup program involving local children, using $1,000 to be provided by the New Mexico Clean and Beautiful organization. To get the money, village officials need to create a plan for spending it. Some of the funds could be used to give bowling passes, movie tickets or other rewards to kids who take part in the program.
Residents are being encouraged to serve on a Clean and Beautiful Committee, which will identify priorities.
On another matter, the trustees discussed leasing Building 26 at Fort Bayard from the state. The structure, which houses the fort's museum, would be used to store Santa Clara historical artifacts, as well. Several residents have been keeping documents, photographs and other village memorabilia in their homes.
The board voted to renew the village's garbage-pickup contract with the Bayard-based Garcia Solid Waste Management. The annual fee of about $58,000 has not not changed since the agreement was drafted in 2011. Next year, the village will be required to solicit bids for a new contract.
The village's Housing Authority presented its newly drafted five-year plan. One of the goals is to obtain additional funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, to create more affordable residential options for Santa Clara residents.
The board voted to renew its contract with the Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments, which helps local governments in the area apply for state and federal funding of infrastructure projects. Santa Clara pays an annual fee of $750 for the services.
Officials announced that someone is needed to chair the village's Historical Committee, as Anthony Romero is trying to retire from the position.