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Grant County Commission holds special meeting Feb. 4

The Grant County Commission held a special meeting Monday evening, Feb. 4. The original reason to call the meeting was to consider the sole community provider funding request from Gila Regional Medical Center for $22,403,020.70, as it had been inadvertently left off the last agenda.

Elizabeth Allred of GRMC said the state typically adjusts the amount downward, but "this is the standard annual request for the upcoming fiscal year. This request is for the free care Gila Regional offers. It is paid for by the taxpayers of Grant County." The funding request was approved.

In addition, commissioners approved the sole community provider request from Memorial Medical Center in Deming for $85,318. "The request is up 3 percent from last year," Grant County Manager Jon Paul Saari said. "I don't know that the hospital has ever requested the money, but it's available for Grant County residents at MMC."

Earlier in the meeting, commissioners approved several resolutions, including submission of a completed application for financial assistance and project approval to the New Mexico Finance Authority to acquire a fire truck for the Sapillo Creek Volunteer Fire Department. "The money will come out of the state fire fund, with Sapillo Creek paying for $25,000 for part of the purchase," Saari explained.

The commission approved the submission of a completed application for financial assistance and project approval to NMFA to acquire a fair barn to replace the Cliff-Gila Fairgrounds fair barn, which was hit by a weather microburst last year. The seven-year loan is for $600,000 at 1.8 percent interest.  "We were going to go through capital outlay, but it is too long a process," Saari said. "We want to finish the building before the fair this fall."

Commissioners also approved an intent to consider an ordinance entitled: "An Ordinance Authorizing a Tax Rebate to Benefit Low-Income Property Taxpayers for Taxable Years 2013-2014."

County Attorney Abby Robinson said the ordinance could be considered in every odd-numbered year to allow a low-income rebate on income tax. "But the owner would have to pay property taxes. If the owner has $24,000 or less household income, he or she could collect the rebate through the income tax. The state would send us the bill and the county would have to pay the state back."

Commission Chairman Brett Kasten pointed out that the income would have to be so low, that likely the person would not be paying taxes. He said two counties in the state, Los Alamos and Santa Fe, have authorized the ordinance.

"I recommend we approve the intent to pass and then have a hearing at the next regular meeting," Kasten said.

Saari said those having $0 to $8,000 income would receive a 75 percent rebate, down to those with income of $10,000 to $24,000 receiving a 35 percent rebate.

Robinson said the resolution would be broadcast on radio and be posted in the newspaper.

The commissioners also approved a resolution opposing House Bill 21 to amend the Open Meetings Act to require that an agenda be made public 72 hours in advance of a meeting. At present, an agenda must be posted on the public body's website at least 24 hours prior to a meeting, except in the event of an emergency.

Saari reported the bill is making its way through the Legislature "rather quickly. We have a work session two days before a regular meeting. We would no longer be able to change the agenda at that time. Now we cannot add items after 24 hours prior to the meeting, although we can delete agenda items."

"We would have to have a lot of special meetings and emergency meetings in case of financial items that come in at the last minute," Saari said. "Instead of opening up government, it would close it, because it would be staff authorizing items and then, after the fact, bringing them to the commissioners for approval. Most counties are against the bill because it would not allow things to be brought in front of commissioners in an open meeting." He also pointed out that if the attorney general decides an "emergency" meeting was not an emergency, a county can be fined.

"I think it's funny when such a bill is brought forth by a group, who constantly changes meetings, places and times, with two minutes notice," Kasten said, referring to the way the Legislature sometimes works.
The last resolution to be approved was authorizing the submission of a completed application for the Community Development Block Grant Program to the NMFA Local Government Division and authorizing the county manager to act as the authorized representative for all matters pertaining to the program.

"This is a requirement by the CDBG," Anthony Gutierrez, county planner, said. "This year we are asking for $232,000, with 90 percent of the funding coming from CDBG and 10 percent from the county, for a lift station for the Fort Bayard Medical Center."

Editor's Note: The rest of the meeting, which consisted of a presentation by the U.S. Forest Service on the Travel Management Plan, public comments from those supporting closing of roads in the Gila National Forest, as well as those against the restrictions in the TMP, will be covered in subsequent articles, and will include input from the Forest Service.

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