Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of articles on the Grant County Commission regular meeting on Thursday, Feb. 21, addressing agenda items, including an update from Ray Aaltonen, New Mexico Game & Fish Department Las Cruces Division chief, on deer management.
"I was last here on July 12," Ray Aaltonen, New Mexico Game & Fish Department Las Cruces Division chief, said. "At that time we had two prongs of our management plan in place—lethal removal and trap and transplant. The trap and transplant was not successful, so we geared up for larger nets. The third prong of the plan was archery takes for female deer. That has now been put in place. If a person did not get a buck during archery season, he or she will be able apply for doe season. The hunt will take place in units 23 and 24, a special hunt unit on private property with permission. It will extend two weeks and starts in 2014, next year."
He said he received one letter from the Little Walnut area, and the complaints were investigated. "We lost two deer from errant shots. The 25 deer we shot were all sold, as per statute. We will henceforth notify dispatch when we start and stop our efforts. If you hear shots now, it is not yet us."
"This is not a complete removal of deer from the area," Aaltonen explained. "We are trying to get them to bring down the population, which is causing problems all over the state."
With larger nets, from Feb. 13-15, NMG&FD personnel started large-scale trapping and transplanting of deer, with 110 being sent to the other areas of the state, including the Peloncillos. As a result of the operation, three deer were fatalities, which he explained is better than the average 5 percent loss.
"We will do a study on hard and soft releases to make sure the deer are surviving," Aaltonen said. "We are trapping on four different locations in conjunction with land owners. We may come back in March for more trap and transplant."
Commissioner Ron Hall said he had a complaint from a citizen who said a bow hunter was hunting in proximity of the citizen's home.
"Every person has the right to keep people off private property," Aaltonen said.
Hall asked sportsmen to be "vigilant and respect people's property."
Aaltonen said the department expects to send out news releases pertaining to the deer management programs.
Commissioner Gabriel Ramos said asking first before going on to private property is good. He also commended the department for the survival study.
"We want the program to be successful," Aaltonen said.
The next item of business was to name members to the Subdivision Review Committee. Charles E. Hamilton, Thomas D. McArthur and Ed L. Wilmot were named to fill positions on the committee expiring in December 2013. Jeremiah Garcia and Tim Donovan will serve terms, ending in June 2014, and Earl Moore and Anthony Gutierrez to terms ending in December 2014.
County Planner Anthony Gutierrez said county staff members make recommendations on subdivisions, "so I hope there is no conflict with my being a member of the committee."
Commission Chairman Brett Kasten replied that if a conflict arose to bring the issue back to the commissioners. "What I expect with having two members from county staff on the committee is that you will know the history of subdivisions in the county and the statutes."
County Attorney Abigail Robinson said that a member could recuse himself from voting on particular issues at the time they arise.
Commissioners approved a $15,000 appropriation to the SRAM Tour of the Gila. Jack Brennan, race director, said he has been working with County Manager Jon Paul Saari to get more out about tourism in the area. He said the TOG was using a woman out of California who was utilizing social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as press conferences and press releases, in addition to interviews of riders as the races occur to be posted to the TOG website.
"We plan to promote the Pro Men and Pro Women races," Brennan said. "We think we can promote our area as a tourist destination, using the Tour of the Gila to promote tourism to Grant County and New Mexico."
He said Saari talked about how to promote the beautiful area, with hiking and fishing. "People who follow the race are outdoors people," Brennan said. "Last year's economic impact on the area was $561,000."
Hall pointed out that so many people come to the race and then they come back to the area.
"Lynn (the woman from California) is very approachable on how to market the area," Brennan said.
Commissioners approved the Lower Mimbres Volunteer Firefighters annual reporting to the Public Employees Retirement Association of New Mexico, so volunteers can qualify for a retirement stipend.
Also approved as an Emergency Medical Services Fund application for the Sapillo Creek Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department for the next year's funding for stand-alone EMS, not under the Gila Regional Medical Center, which moved the department's ambulance to Bayard.
Under contracts and agreements, commissioners approved:
• An amendment to a grant agreement with the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration for the DWI Program in the amount of $91,300;
• A memorandum of understanding with the Grant County Community Health Council for the purpose of planning and coordinating local health and wellness-related services, with the council serving as a clearinghouse for requests for commission funding to see if it meets anti-donation state law and if it serves a wellness-related need;
• Ratification of professional service agreements with Mary Lorraine Zunich for $4,200, and Lindy Kerr for $3.360 for services in the Juvenile Probation Office for the Restorative Justice program. The agreements were approved by Saari, on behalf of the commissioners, and brought to the commission for ratification;
• A grant agreement with the New Mexico Department of Transportation Aviation Division for reconstruction of the public apron, phase three, for $555,500, with the county being responsible for $13,887; and
• An amendment to a federal grant with the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency in the amount of $10,728.43 for a portion of the emergency manager's salary.
Under resolutions, commissioners approved an application to the New Mexico Finance Authority to borrow funds for a 2013 water tender for the Pinos Altos Volunteer fire Department;
Saari said a rule in the NMFA has changed so that a loan cannot be paid off early, if it's less than 10 years.
Other resolutions approved include:
• Acceptance of roads for county maintenance within the Pinos Altos Ranch Sudivision;
• Support of New Mexico Senate Bill 199 to allocate $150,000 for marketing the Tour of the Gila;
• Support for Senate Bill 80, increasing funding for New Mexico fresh grown fruits and vegetable for school meals; House Bill 56, accelerating the growth of food entrepreneurs by working with multiple rural communities to develop their respective food assets to create a statewide cohesive food infrastructure; and House Bill 100 and Senate Bill 219, to develop and promote New Mexico Farmer's Markets. The Volunteer Center Director Alicia Edwards said HB 56 is promoting rural agriculture. The Mixing Bowl Program out of Albuquerque, which will create new jobs, has Grant County as a target community for the program; HB 100 and SB 219 to promote farmer's markets. SB 80 will provide funding for fruits and vegetables for school meals. Edwards said New Mexico is a 98 percent state, with that percentage of food production going out of the state and the same percentage coming into the state from outside;
• Authorization to the county manager to approve and execute professional services agreement and amendments for anything under $20,000, and then bring back to the commission for ratification, particularly in the case of carrying out the mission of the Juvenile Probation and Parole Office. At the work session, Saari asked if it were only for the JPPO or other agencies. The commissioners asked for other agencies to be included;
• Designation of the Tyrone Mutual Domestic Water Consumers Association as a colonia. Traci Burnsed spoke at the work session that only the Tyrone townsite is a colonia. The resolution includes the MDWCA service area. The item was added at the work session; and
• Support of the New Mexico Environmental Department's proposed Copper Rule, which also was added at the work session.
Saari said the rule sets parameters for the quality of water at the mines. People have requested synthetic liners for the waste ore deposits and the process water. Freeport said it would cost more than $100 million to do one dam. At the work session, Kasten asked if there were no limits now. Saari said the state would require clear guidelines on water quality.
The last resolution to be considered by the commissioners was support for the New Mexico Environment Department's Proposed Copper Rule.
Richard Peterson of Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. Communications said the copper rule was proposed to bring improvements to make the rules clear and consistent.
"Individual interests were heard," Peterson said. "These regulations provide consistency across the state, primarily on groundwater protection."
The resolution passed.
Commissioners reconvened as the Grant County Indigent and Health Care Claims Board to approve an indigent burial by Terrazas Funeral Home for Allan E. Turner, and 1339 indigent claims for $681,313.06.
After reconvening, commissioners heard county reports.
The next article will cover county reports from the Tuesday work session and the regular meeting.