Sam Lowry, Grant County agricultural and 4-H agent, third from left, accepts a Ride for the 4-H Clover proclamation from Commisisoner Gabrel Ramos, left, Commission Chairman Brett Kasten, second from left, and Commissioner Ron Hall, at right.
By Mary Alice Murphy
Two residents offered public comment at the Grant County Commission regular meeting on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014.
Lucy Whitmarsh, Silver City MainStreet Board president, announced two events. On Aug. 16, the fourth annual Bash on Broadway will take place downtown to welcome Western New Mexico students and their families to Silver City. At 5:30 p.m., WNMU President Joseph Shepard will give a state of the university talk in the Silver City Museum courtyard. From 6:30-8:30 p.m., a street dance will be held on Broadway. "It's important for the community to support the university and welcome the students," Whitmarsh said.
The second event will take place Saturday, Sept. 6. The Taste of Downtown will feature food production information at the farmers' market from 8:30 a.m. to noon and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. people can taste food from various restaurants downtown. "We need to show the businesses we support them," Whitmarsh said.
Frank Donohue of the Gaffney-Oglesby Marine Corps Detachment 1328 presented a flag to the county to fly over the Grant County Veterans Memorial Business and Conference Center. "I will volunteer the Marine Corps League to take care of the flags over the conference center. Congressman Pearce got us the flag. We ask the county to oversee flags throughout the county, because I've seen some tattered ones, but we will take care of the ones at the Conference Center."
The next item of business was a public hearing on a proposed bond ordinance, which through the implementation of a three-eighths gross receipts tax addition, about 1/3 of a penny per dollar, will fund a continuum of care for substance abuse; electrical and heating, air-conditioning and ventilation at the County Courthouse; and the interior renovation of the Business and Conference Center. The bond ordinance was passed and authorizes an amount not to exceed $7 million for the three projects. Future gross receipts will be retained by the county to pay for capital and infrastructure projects, as needed.
James Baldwin, county resident, said the copy of the ordinance he had received said the bond was up to $5 million. "I understand the amount was changed to $7 million."
Commission Chairman Brett Kasten said the amount was changed at the work session, in case of a need for a reserve, if a more favorable interest rate is not achieved.
Interim County Manager Abigail Robinson said a typo in a local newspaper had under-reported the amount of annual debt service, which will be from $350,000 to $370,000 per year, paid for by the GRT increase.
Tommy Hughes of Hughes Law Firm in Albuquerque expressed his appreciation for being appointed to the finance team. Kasten thanked him for his legal advice on the bond issue.
Finance Officer Linda Vasquez presented the expenditure report for $1,532,840.23, which included two payroll periods and a payment of $223,149 to the New Mexico Association of Counties workman's compensation plan.
In new business, commissioners passed a proclamation naming Saturday, Aug. 23, as Ride for the 4-H Clover Day to raise awareness of the 4-H program throughout southwestern New Mexico.
Sam Lowry, Grant County agricultural and 4-H extension agent, said the ride was begun last year, started by New Mexico State University Regent Mike Cheney with the encouragement of NMSU President Garry Carruthers. "It is a fundraising opportunity and a massive show of support for 4-H. We have more than 300 youths involved in Grant County and the program continues 'to grow. We expect the riders to arrive between 11 a.m. and noon. The public is invited to attend."
Commissioners approved an intergovernmental donation of two vehicles from the Sixth Judicial District Attorney's Office to the Sheriff's Office and a n emergency management grant from the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security. The latter will pay half the Emergency Manager Gilbert Helton's salary.
After some discussion and a presentation by Gila Regional Medical Center's Comptroller Elizabeth Allred, commissioners agreed to send a payment of $204,269 to New Mexico Human Services Department.
Allred said the hospital had received a transitional payment of $7.5 million from the state. The payment was made because the Safety Net Care Pool did not kick in until July 1. "HSD has requested this payment from the counties as a partial payment."
"This has nothing to do with the one-twelfth that was agreed upon during the legislative session?" Kasten asked.
"The payment we got was for the entire calendar year, so the department secretary is not differentiating the first half of the year," Allred said.
Robinson said the county would be paying less in this payment than expected.
"Grant County is one of the few counties where the county can contribute less than half of what it was expected to give," Allred said. "The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid waiver had not been finalized. We thought the payment would be $5 million. Because of our actual uncompensated care, we were bumped up to $7.5 million.
Kasten thanked Allred for the explanation, because he believed the vote might have gone differently without her comments. The other commissioners nodded in agreement.
After the commissioners had approved slight grammatical word changes in the Appeal of the Record of Decision for the Travel Management Plan on the Gila National Forest, James Baldwin, county resident, who had had his hand raised for comment during discussion, said he was opposed to the county's position on the plan.
"I have seen more roads being created by ATVs over the past years," Baldwin said. "They are despoiling the forest. Yes, it is public land, but people should not be allowed to desecrate their land. I do hope you will not pursue the issue with the violence and vigor of past meetings."
Commissioners approved the dedication of right-of-way easements for the purposes of the Wind Canyon Estates assessment district.
Cerisse Grijalva, Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments transportation specialist, said a meeting would be held Tuesday, Aug. 26, from 1:30-3:30 at the Town Annex. "The public meeting is required by the federal government for the New Mexico Department of Transportation to work with the public on input for the long-range plan. We will report on what the working groups have done. I stress to you and the public to participate."
Commissioner Gabriel Ramos said he believed the Town Annex conference room would be too small and offered the commissioners' meeting room.
John Strand gave an update on the SunZia Southwest Transmission Plan. The project summary shows it as a 515-mile 500 kV independent transmission project to bring high-quality renewable energy to Arizona and California markets.
The Western Electricity Coordinating Council granted Phase 3 status in March 2011, which affirmed a rating of 3,000 megawatts for two 500 kV lines. The project is one of seven pilot projects supported by the Federal Rapid Response Team for Transmission. The project has received a letter of intent with First Wind for up to 1,500 of transmission capacity.
"We have studied about 2, 200 miles of alternative routes during the five-year process," Strand said. "The Bureau of Land Management came up with the preferred route. One of the major obstacles was the northern extension of the White Sands Missile Range.
"Southwest New Mexico is rich in solar power and we hope new companies will be interested in developing more energy," he continued. "We have high wind energy in north central New Mexico. California is not meeting its mandate for renewable energy, so the state is looking for more. None of the states of Arizona, Utah, Nevada or California has the wind potential of New Mexico."
He noted the transmission line is clearing most of the WSMR testing area. Strand also said the company hopes to receive the record of decision from the BLM within the next few months, because it will take a year to a year-and-a-half to get rights of way for the line.
Kasten asked about the final mitigation at WSMR.
"The final is to bury up to five miles in three different areas at considerable expense," Strand replied. "The project is estimated at $2 billion, with commercial operation expected in 2018. Up to a mission of the cost will be to bury the lines we agreed to bury."
Under contracts and agreements, commissioners approved the employment contract with the new county manager, Charlene Webb, who is expected to begin her job September 8. T
They also approved a memorandum of understanding between the Sixth Judicial District Court for surveillance of adults and juveniles.
Under resolutions, commissioners authorized the execution and delivery of a loan agreement and intercept agreement with the New Mexico Finance Authority for a loan of $47,960 to pay for the Santa Rita Subdivision Assessment District road improvements.
Also approved was a resolution authorizing a one-half of one percent cost of living adjustment for county employees, with the exception of the Sheriff's Office employees, who in the union contract had already received the additional COLA, and with the exception of the department heads and chief deputies.
As the Grant County Indigent and Health Plan Claims Board, commissioners approved an indigent burial certificate for Terrazas Funeral Chapels.
Baldwin asked the cost, and Kasten said it was about $600.
After reconvening as the Board of Commissioners, commissioners heard county reports.
County Planner Anthony Gutierrez said he had given each commission a copy of last year's Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan. "I want to leave most of them on the list. We have to adjust the priorities, and I will meet with each commissioner individually to prioritize the projects. "Anyone who wants a project on the ICIP should contact me," Gutierrez said.
Treasurer Steve Armendariz said he is working on legislative priorities for the New Mexico Association of Counties Treasurers' Affiliate. "The Property Tax Division was in last week for three days. During that time, from the initial list of 378 delinquent properties, we whittled it down to 222, which will be certified for auction."
Ramos said he wanted to comment on the TMP comments made. "I, too, don't agree with driving cross-country, but I want to keep the forest roads open, especially for the disabled. I want also to get the environmental impact statement corrected, because a lot of the roads were not listed in the EIS. I hope to keep open some of the 2,800 miles of roads that are slated for closure."
"We did not appeal the no-cross-country driving portion of the TMP," Kasten noted before he adjourned the meeting.