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Grant County Commissioners to hold public hearing on bond ordinance

By Mary Alice Murphy

This morning, Tuesday, Aug. 12, Grant County commissioners discussed the public hearing to be held at the regular meeting, Thursday, Aug. 14, at 9 a.m. to address a bond ordinance. The ordinance, if approved, will authorize the issuance of bonds not to exceed $7 million. "These are bonds we've been working on for quite a while," Interim County Manager Abigail Robinson said.

After the meeting, she explained the ordinance will fund three projects: the upgrading on the electrical system and heating, air conditioning and ventilation in the Grant County Courthouse; the remodel of the interior of the Grant County Veterans Memorial Business and Conference Center; and a continuum of care for substance abuse, as a one-stop center from detox through treatment.

Robinson said the bonds are expected to be for $5.5 million to $6 million, but the "not-to-exceed" number will allow debt reserves, if required by the bond issuance.

"We estimate the annual debt will be $350,000 to $370,000, paid out of gross receipts taxes." Robinson said. "We should be able to build the remaining gross receipts tax fund for capital and infrastructure needs of the county."

At the work session, Mark Valenzuela, first vice president of George K. Baum investment advisors out of Albuquerque, said the company is moving through the bond process. "If you approve the ordinance on Thursday, we would return in four weeks, with a sale, the interest rate and the terms. After that, it will close within two weeks."

He said the financing is based on the bond rating. Grant County has an A3 Moody's rating, which is very good, "but if we can get a higher rating, the county would not need the required 10 percent reserve. Or the county may be able to buy a policy with a small premium. The ones we've been talking to would raise the county to an A2 rating."

During financial reports, to be approved on Thursday, Financial Officer Linda Vasquez said the expenditures included two payroll periods and a check for $223,149 to the New Mexico Association of Counties Workman's Comp for a total expenditure of $1,532,840.23.

Under new business, the commissioners will proclaim Aug. 23, 2014 as Ride for the 4-H Clover Day. Judy O'Loughlin, Extension Office agent, said the second annual ride is to promote 4-H throughout the region. "New Mexico State University Regent Mike Cheney began it last year. NMSU President Gary Carruthers will again accompany the participants. We will provide a luncheon at about 11 or 11:30 at the Conference Center. The public is also invited. A car show will be part of the event. The riders will go next to Catron County and will spend the night in Socorro County before returning to Las Cruces on Sunday."

Commissioners will also consider an intergovernmental transfer of two vehicles from the Sixth Judicial District Attorney's Office to the Sheriff's Department.

To be approved is the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security, Emergency Management Program grant for about $21,000, for which the county match is the same amount to pay the Emergency Manager Gilbert Helton.

Under consideration is a payment of $204,269 to the Human Services Department for the period of January to June 2014 under the state Safety Net Plan, the replacement for the sole community provider funding, which ended at the end of 2013. Robinson said the amount is an estimate of one-twelfth of the county's gross receipts. She explained some counties are refusing to pay, but "we do have the money. We still, however, have questions about whether it will go to our hospital."

Gila Regional Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Brian Cunningham said the hospital just received about $5 million from the state for uncompensated care and Medicaid expansion. "We got the full calendar year's worth retroactively."

"We think the money we send will go to pay Gila Regional, but there are difficulties with the transition," Robinson said.

Cunningham suggested he, the manager, and at least one commissioner should get together and make some calls to try to get answers.

"If we can't figure it out by Thursday, we will put it on the next meeting agenda," Robinson said.

She said minor language changes had been made to the county's appeal of the Forest Service Travel Management Plan.

To continue the process of an assessment district in Wind Canyon Estates, commissioners will need to approve a dedication of right-of-way easement. County Planner Anthony Gutierrez said not everyone was required to sign the easement, because the roadway wasn't developed where it was placed on the plat, so not every property abuts the road. "Residents agree they don't want to move the road."

Commissioners will hear a presentation on the statewide transportation long-range plan by Cerisse Grijalva of the Southwest Council of Governments.

John Strand will give an update on the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project.

Under contracts and agreements commissioners will approve an employment contract with the new county manager, Charlene Webb. Robinson said Webb has already signed the contract.

Commissioners will consider approving a memorandum of understanding between the county and the Sixth Judicial District Court for surveillance of adults and juveniles. "When we expanded the program to include adults, we didn't have the exact amount. This year we have budgeted accordingly," Robinson said.

Under resolutions, the county will authorize the execution and delivery of a loan agreement and intercept agreement with the New Mexico Finance Authority for $47,960 for the Santa Rita Subdivision Assessment District for road improvements. Gutierrez said several residents have already paid in full. "We will proceed similarly with all the other assessment districts, so we don't have to take money out of the general fund for road construction."

Also to be approved is a resolution authorizing a one-half percent cost-of-living adjustment for county employees, with the exception of those in the Sheriff's Office. Robinson explained that most employees received a 1 percent raise, but in the union negotiations, the Sheriff's Office employees received a 1.5 percent raise. "The money is in the budget, if the commissioners want to raise all employees," Robinson said.

Commissioners will also approve a July 11, 2014 indigent burial certificate for Terrazas Funeral Chapels.

The rest of the work session was taken up by county reports, which will be covered in a future article.

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