By Charlie McKee
In one of his last acts as Mayor of the Town of Silver City, James Marshall proclaimed Mar. 14, 2014, "Salt of the Earth Day" in honor of the 60th anniversary of the release of the film, Salt of the Earth.
As many local citizens are aware, the 1954 film tells the story of the 1950 historic strike of mine workers against the Empire Zinc mine of Grant County. It was a long and difficult strike, lasting more than a year and making its unique mark in history with the participation of women in addition to its success in achieving better pay and safety for Chicano miners. The film itself was blacklisted for years as being inflammatory. Public viewing of the film, bus tours of historic sites, a "Women of Steel" panel, and many more activities hosted by AFSCME, USW, NM Film Workers Unions and other labor and civic organizations will be held in Grant County on Saturday, Mar. 15, to celebrate "Salt of the Earth Day."
As Marshall's term as Mayor draws to a close, the Councilors took the opportunity during the Council Comments portion of the meeting to thank Marshall for his leadership and mentoring. Councilor and candidate for Mayor Mike Morones, although running unopposed, also urged citizens to make an effort to vote in the upcoming Mar. 4 Municipal Election. He noted that the Public Safety Tax issue on the ballot is extremely important to the Town and that both the District 2 Council position and the Municipal Judge position have more than one candidate running for office.
Also during Council Comments, Councilor Cynthia Bettison addressed the issue of citizen participation in the enforcement of Town ordinances. She stressed that residents must be diligent about notifying law enforcement officers and being willing to be witnesses in cases of cruelty to animals, cruelty to humans (domestic violence), and driving while intoxicated. Bettison stated that, if Town citizens do not take responsibility for taking these actions, the existing municipal and state laws cannot be enforced.
The Council then voted to move the business of approving the Town of Silver City Audit Report for Fiscal Year ended Jun. 30, 2013 to follow the approval of the Jan. 22, 2014, Council Meeting Minutes. Mike Stone of Stone McGee & Co. auditors testified to the Council that the Town's 2012/2013 financial audit had received the highest rating of "Unqualified Opinion." The Town has received this outstanding rating for more than ten successive years, and Stone attributed this stellar record to the financial stewardship of Town Manager and Finance Director Alex Brown. Stone noted that Brown was able to accomplish this feat in the past fiscal year in spite of major changes in personnel, including the loss of the previous Deputy Finance Director at the beginning of the fiscal year. Stone credited Brown with guiding new personnel with consistent calm and competent leadership through a period of significant transition. He noted that the Town manages 75 funds, consisting of $72 million in Town assets and $20 million per year in revenues. Brown commended his staff for their hard work and dedication in achieving the "Unqualified Opinion" rating: Deputy Finance Director Anita Norero; Accounting Technician Amanda Teran; Accounting Technician Priscilla Arredondo; Purchasing Agent Leann Misquez; and Accounting Technician Steven Lopez.
The meeting continued with Reports from the High Desert Humane Society (HDHS) and the Natural History of the Gila Symposium, respectively.
• HDHS President Heidi Ogas presented statistics showing the increases and decreases in numbers of dogs and cats brought to HDHS over a six-year period. She noted that, while there has been an overall decrease since 2007, there is still a great need for enforcing the Town's spay-and-neuter ordinance. Ogas reported that, in concert with the organization's 40th birthday in 2013, they had set a goal to raise $40,000 to support HDHS's spay-and-neuter program. HDHS succeeded in raising more than $44,000 and wants to "get the word out" to the public that funds are available to residents for spaying and neutering their pets. HDHS coupons will pay for one-half to two-thirds of the cost of the procedures. When queried by the Council on another topic, Ogas reported that HDHS's adoption rate was running at 45%, which is three times the national average.
• Ted Presler reported to the Council that the 5th Natural History of the Gila Symposium will be held in Silver City from Feb. 27 through Mar. 1, 2014. Presler stated that a generous donation from the U.S. Forest Service made this Symposium possible, but that the Symposium may request funding help from the Town for future events. Presler also emphasized that more than 60 researchers and speakers will be participating in the event, which is a collaboration of Western New Mexico University, the Gila Conservation Education Center, the U.S. Forest Service, Western Institute for Lifelong Learning, and the Bureau of Land Management. The event is free and open to the public.
Ann Mackie, Town Clerk, then reported that absentee voting had begun for the Mar. 4, 2014, Municipal Election and that early voting would begin on Feb. 12. She also noted that there are several vacancies on Town boards and commissions, including: the District 2 Incentive Review Committee, the Extra Territorial Subdivision Commission, and the Museum Board.
Following Reports, the Council approved a Consent Agenda consisting of Resolutions Numbers 2014-03, 2014-04, 2014-05, 2014-06, and 2014-07. These annual resolutions allow the Town to apply for grants, including the State of New Mexico's Community Development Block Grants.
Lastly, in the New Business portion of the meeting, the Council approved Bid #13/14-5 Homeowner's Rehabilitation Project, awarded to Top Mark Enterprises for $27,359, inclusive of gross receipts tax. Town Manager Alex Brown stated that the project is wholly grant funded.
The Council also approved the rescheduling of the next Town Council meeting from Feb. 25 to Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, at 6:00 pm.
The Town Council meeting was then adjourned.