Editor's Note: This is the final article in a multi-part series on the Grant County Commission March 19 work session and March 21 regular meeting.
During county reports at the work session, County Planner Anthony Gutierrez said he had submitted an application to the Colonias Infrastructure Fund for a planning grant for drainage in North Hurley. "They have no drainage out there. We will potentially have curb and gutter. The application is for $333,000 just for planning."
He said he had received notification to prepare an Economic Development Administration bid grant for a North Hurley lift station to the Tri-City Wastewater Treatment Plant to be under construction by late fall or early next year.
Gutierrez was preparing a county request for proposal for engineering, architecture, environmental and surveying professional services, "so we have someone on call. If we don't have someone on call, for a surveyor, we have to go out to bid, and quite a few of our surveyors are retired."
Commissioner Gabriel Ramos asked about water rights. "Once a project is chosen, are the rights kept with the project?"
"The AWSA is not a right to water, it's an exchange for water from the Central Arizona Project," Gutierrez said. "Anyone can purchase the water, but there has to be an agreement proving beneficial use and an agreement to purchase it."
Commissioner Ron Hall pointed out that once the water issue goes to court, "anything can happen."
Terry Trujillo, Senior Services director, said his department had received five of its six ordered vehicles. "Everyone really likes them."
He suggested the commission consider a charge for parties at the senior facilities. "They are really affecting our utilities costs."
Ramos said the issue would be brought up at the upcoming Parks and Recreation meeting.
"Thank you for the opportunity to direct the Detention Center," newly hired Detention Center Administrator Mike Carrillo said. "I want to improve services. We will hold an employee meeting and a question and answer session in the next few days.
"I would like to recognize the Assistant Administrator Joseph Andazola," Carrillo continued. "He has been awesome and is a tremendous asset."
Carrillo said he had contacted several resources to improve the operational aspects and planned to get with the staff to do an overview and set up a short list of priorities. "For the next six months, I will delegate items to staff and hold them accountable. Then we will develop one-, three- and five-year plans."
County Manager Jon Paul Saari said Carrillo planned to mentor jail officials, including Andazola, so "we can look inside next time."
Commission Chairman Brett Kasten said he hoped to have commissioners visit the jail after the April 23 work session.
Road Superintendent Earl Moore said his department was business as usual, when not patching or working in front of the Administration Center.
Public Works Director Justin Reese said his staff had installed a new chlorinating system and pressure tank at the Mimbres Senior Center. "We are finishing up painting and changing out lights at the Conference Center. We are preparing the ball fields and installing batting cages. We have a new trap machine for the Shooting Range. We are getting ready to aerate and overseed at the Courthouse; we are talking about the apron at the airport with WHPacific Inc., and we are working on RFPs for a small remodel for the D.A.'s office and a small remodel at the Health Council office. The Wellness Coalition is helping us at Bataan Memorial Park and at the park below the Senior Center in Silver City."
Hall asked about the possibility of Silver Little League having to use the county fields. "I think Silver City got its problems fixed," Reese replied.
Saari said the District Court judges have given the county a punch list of things that need to be done. "But we need to redo the whole electrical system at the Courthouse. We need three-quarters of a million dollars to do the job, and we never get it."
Kasten said: "It needs to be a capital outlay request priority. Maybe we can fund it with part of a grant or with a USDA loan."
Ramos requested a legislative rundown from the area's representation at the next meeting. Kasten said Rep. Dona Irwin should also be invited, as she represents part of Grant County.
Undersheriff Kevin Flamm said the department had 346 calls for service last month, including 19 collisions, and processed 723 documents.
Treasurer Steve Armendariz said the deadlines on paying delinquent solid waste fees were approaching. "I want to get the liens in this fiscal year. We need you to set hearing dates in the first part of June. We are sending courtesy letters to those owing more than $100."
As for mobile home liens, "in the past when we submitted them to the Motor Vehicle Division, we chose whether to place the liens. Now we have authority to place and release liens. Two weeks ago, we started verifying whether a lien should be on a property. When we apply the lien, the MVD automatically sends a notice of the lien to the owner and mortgage company. We have $40,000 in outstanding taxes owed. We are starting to see responses. If a manufactured home is transferred, we can collect the taxes and solid waste fees ahead of time, but not the solid waste fees for residential homes."
"It's my job to have the county get its revenues," Armendariz continued. "My concern is we need to work closer with Jon's office to know where we're at on the bank balances and where we need to be."
He proposed, if he receives commission agreement, to give an idea of how much has been collected and how much the county has to use at any given time. "I don't want confusion for the public."
Armendariz had concerns about some bills that were passed, whether they were amended or not, and what the status was. Kasten recommended he visit with Sen. Howie Morales before going before the Treasurer's affiliate.
Assessor Randy Villa said his office was preparing for the annual evaluation by the state. He invited the commissioners to the District 5 New Mexico Association of Counties meeting in Deming from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., April 9, where a discussion will take place on what needs to happen to get things done at the Legislature next year.
"Back to the survey issue," Villa said. "Maybe we need a surveyor on board. There are properties we don't know who owns. When Santa Fe County got a surveyor to look at the unknown properties, it got over $1 million in taxes.
"My staff is working hard at getting notices of values out by April 1, but we have asked for an extension, just in case," Villa continued. "There will be confusion because of a new format. If you change mailing addresses, please notify the clerk, treasurer and assessor."
Armendariz reminded commissioners and the public of the 10 a.m. April 4 tax sale, with 67 listings.
"I presume you encourage people interested in the tax sale listings to do their own title searches, so they don't later discover federal liens on the properties."
Gutierrez said he had recently met with Melanie Goodman of U.S. Sen. Tom Udall's office and she had questions about how a reduction in payment in lieu of taxes would affect the county. "I made it clear—it would hurt. She said she would send reports."
Clerk Robert Zamarripa said he was talking to companies to do an update of the vault and get rid of microfiches and upgrade equipment so people could get information at the office on a thumb drive.
Ramos said the Southwest County Commission Alliance had talked about using the good part of the old jail for a detox center. "We are in the beginning of the process. We have also talked about using the Hidalgo County Jail as a juvenile detention center. We also passed a resolution for the southwest regional water supply system. We held no secret meetings. Everyone at the meeting in Santa Fe was a dedicated elected official. There were no open meetings violations. We have to put information out to avoid people believing the nonsense out there. We were only doing what we thought best for our communities."
"I want thank Jon and Brett for representing us well in Santa Fe," Ramos said.
Hall said he had an interesting meeting with Bureau of Land Management officials. "We need to make sure citizens are aware of where they can go. What we need to do is bring in together our mappers, the BLM and the counties to make sure there are no bad maps out there. I, too, would like to thank the chairman and manager. It's hard work, plus the chairman has his own livelihood and we depend on Jon."
"Santa Fe is different," Kasten said. "It's hurry up and wait, wait, wait, then it's hurry up, hurry up. Overall, I think we did about 50-50. We have to look forward to the tax bill, which will reduce the hold harmless."
Saari said budget time is here, and he and Linda Vasquez would be meeting with directors. "April 23 is our first budget meeting, and we will discuss it at both meetings in May. We will have no meetings April 9 and 11 because of spring break."
At the regular meeting, Villa said the project with the university, county and town is "unprecedented. I urge you to support it." (For more information, visit http://www.grantcountybeat.com/index.php/news/news-articles/9760-quality-of-life-bonds-discussed-at-county-commission-meeting )
Zamarripa said his office was ready for an election if the commission decided to hold one on the gross receipts tax option to purchase bonds (as proposed in the article cited above.)
Ramos said he would like to clear up rumors. "I do not in any way favor piping water to Las Cruces or Texas from our lovely Grant County Gila River."
"We, as county commissioners, put in a tremendous amount of work on the water situation," Hall said. "We're close. No way am I supporting water going out of the four counties. I support using it within the four counties."
Saari asked that the NMAC meeting in Deming be advertised as possibly having a quorum of commissioners. Ramos asked that water meetings also be advertised as possibly having quorums.
The next work session will take place at 9 a.m. Tuesday, April 23, and the next regular meeting at 9 a.m., Thursday, April 25.