Presenting a proclamation of Feb. 18 as Territorial Charter Day are Commissioner Billy Billings, left; Commission Chairman Brett Kasten, fourth from left, Commissioners Harry Browne, Alicia Edwards and Gabriel Ramos. Accepting the proclamation are Raul Turrieta and Brandy Thornburg, second and third from left.
Photo and article by Mary Alice Murphy
At the Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, combined work session and regular meeting, when the item for approval of the meeting agenda came up, District 1 Commissioner Gabriel Ramos asked for an item addressing a memorandum of agreement for challenging implementation of the Travel Management Plan of the Gila National Forest to be removed. "I want to research it more," he said.
District 5 Commissioner Harry Browne asked about a permanent search committee for a Gila Regional Medical Center permanent chief executive officer. Attorney Abigail Robinson said it would be discussed later in the meeting.
During public input, GRMC Interim CEO Alfredo Ontiveros gave a brief report. "First, finances. As of the end of December 2016, we had a positive bottom line of $52,403." He said it was even for the fiscal year, with at least one month of positive growth. "At the end of January, although we have not finalized and approved the financial report, it looks positive. The Meditech 6 upgrade is a million-dollar project and we will go live on June 1, I believe, without any issues. The executive overview of the project has been turned over to me. Ken Stone of IT is now directly in charge. We are finding contractual savings."
He said for the revenue cycle, the hospital is making sure a system is in place. "We are looking at all departments and services, looking at being efficient. We eliminated the chief operating officer, because the position was not actually needed in our size hospital."
Ontiveros also noted the GRMC Foundation was sponsoring an ice cream social for caregivers that day for Valentine's Day.
Commission Chairman Brett Kasten asked about nominations for the search committee for a permanent CEO.
"It's a board initiative," Ontiveros replied. "I'm just the advisor. The nomination process has gone to 11 different groups asking each to provide three nominees to interview and choose a quality CEO. The board will choose one of the nominees for each group."
"Will each group be represented?" Kasten asked, to which Ontiveros replied: "Yes."
Kasten said the commissioners were not sure they wanted the GRMC board to choose "who represents us."
"I will pass that on," Ontiveros said.
The next public input came from Allyson Siwik, Gila Conservation Coalition executive director. "You took the agenda item off, but we want to talk about the Gila National Forest Travel Management Plan. We were active in giving input. I strongly recommend Grant County not join the Southwest County Commissioners Alliance in a lawsuit against the Travel Management Plan."
She said the plan provides access to all, including hunting, fishing and trapping. "I have data on how much money the national forest brings in. It brings $15.5 million in spending, creates 112 jobs, which support $2.8 million in labor. It brings in $743,000 in state and local taxes. The Travel Management Plan is critical to maintaining recreational opportunities. I strongly recommend you not join the lawsuit."
Andy Payne, resident, said he, too, supports the TMP. "I ask you not to interfere with it. I see public land as an inheritance from my forefathers. It's my land out there, and I see the National Forest Service as my employee to oversee the forest." He noted the forest is much more intensively used now than in the past, so rules need to change with the times. "My wife and I camp for weeks at a time. I used to hunt and fish, but I have left that to the younger generations." Payne said the TMP would continue to protect the forest for the hunters, fishers and hikers. "I'm willing to give up some access." He requested the commission not spend millions of dollars to tie the hands of the land managers. "I support the protection of public lands."
Janet Wallet-Ortiz, who has lived in the area more than 30 years and is retired from teaching at Western New Mexico University, said she realized the item had been removed from the agenda. "I want to make sure I'm on the record. I insist you not spend one cent to challenge the TMP. It might cost initially $6,000," but the county doesn't know how much will be spent on useless and long litigation. "For many of us the plan fell short of protecting the forests." Wallet-Ortiz said. "But at least it did not cave in to special interests, which would have been against the interests of us all who seek to preserve and protect our forests."
She said she had suggestions for spending the $6,000 and more, such as for free, healthy recreational activities for Grant County youth; fixing sidewalks that are falling apart; planting trees; bolstering a program to provide food security for the elderly and poor. "Vote No on challenging the forest service management plan."
Lorna Ruebelmann said she wanted to thank Chairman Kasten on behalf of her husband George, who could not be there the day of the meeting, because Kasten had voted in favor of a five-man commission. "He worked as an archaeologist for the BLM for 20 years and was aware of how hard public officials work and how difficult it is to come to consensus. When you work on a plan, you get public input from the local municipalities, the county, organizations and public citizens. The input will not necessarily change what is being planned, because of federal law, internal operations and environmental laws. We have a wonderful administration on the Gila National Forest. I propose instead of a lawsuit you create a resolution thanking the Gila National Forest for protecting our forest."
Carol Morrison, co-leader of the Great Old Broads of the Wilderness, said she is a citizen aware of what took place during the TMP process. "My husband and I identified roads that should be closed, but the National Forest denied all the closures. The TMP is not a wild-eyed liberal plan, it is the best practice to protect our forest."
Jeff Boyd, resident, said he, too, was strongly opposed to joining the lawsuit. "First of all, there is no cause to do so. It opens Grant County up to expenditures. The Forest Service was diligent in getting input. The final plan represents a fair compromise. Joining with other counties would be a huge waste of public money."
Hara Davis of Cliff said she also supports not joining the "frivolous lawsuit and waste of money."
She also pointed out the Commission website is very poor. "It makes public input difficult and doesn't let us do anything."
Davis said she and her husband gather wood and the new plan does impact them. "But we are willing to be inconvenienced. Recreation and the Continental Divide Trail are a way of diversifying the economy of Grant County."
County Financial Officer Linda Vasquez presented the expenditure report for the past month. Total expenditures, as of Feb. 9, 2017, were $2,294,551.75, which includes payroll of $420,573.36, and accounts payable of $1,873,978.39. Extraordinary expenses included the 2017 airport liability renewal to Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Co. for $10,225; for jet fuel and refueler lease payment to Ascent Aviation for $17,641.96; for Rosedale Road Colonias paving materials to Southwest Concrete and Paving for $60,328.61; December 2016 fuel charges to Wright Express Fleet Services for $21,576.07; furnishings for the Conference Center to Workspace Dynamics & Sit On It for $142,380.55; animal control services for October-December 2017 to High Desert Humane Society for $16,580; Extension Services contribution for the second quarter to New Mexico State University for $17,000; work and financial plan services for the first half of the year to USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service wildlife services for $16,636.24; engineering services for airport runway project to Bohannon-Huston Inc. for $77,514.98; fire equipment for the Santa Rita VFD to Artesia Fire Equipment for $84,640; December and January medical management and registered nurse services at the Detention Center to Health Care Partners Systems for $26,009.32; December 2016 inmate indigent claims to GRMC for $29,445.91; December inmate meals to Summit Food Services for $22,777.40; and for security cameras and intercom system at the Detention Center to Kubl Group for $36,100.
Browne asked if the $17,000 to the Extension Services is a share, to which County Manager Charlene Webb said it was a three-way share to sustain extension services.
Browne also questioned a rent payment of $3,000 for the manager's office. Vasquez explained it was a payment from Dispatch because they pay rent in a county building and the county is the fiscal agent for Dispatch.
He also asked about $1,000 for a keyboard to which Webb said it was for five keyboards for the commission tablets.
Vasquez gave the quarterly financial reports, as of Dec. 31, 2017, for the General Fund, Corrections and the Road Department.
Actual revenues year-to-date to the General Fund at the end of the quarter were $5,440,987, with expenditures of $4,414,153.
Transfers to the Corrections Fund had not yet been made, so the balances were $0.
The Road Fund had revenues of $323,147, with expenditures of $795,039. As of the end of last year, the balance was a negative $238.997, but transfers in and other revenue sources would help the bottom line.
In new business, Assessor Raul Turrieta and Brandy Thornburg, who does marketing and promotions for Silver City MainStreet Project, presented a proclamation naming Feb. 18 as Territorial Charter Day. It is the 139th anniversary of the 1878 declaration of Silver City's charter, the oldest continuing territorial charter in the state. The opening ceremony will be held at the Silver City Museum at 10:30 a.m. Other events include a hike on Boston Hill and a biscochos baking contest, as well as a retablo workshop. "Sen. Morales did a memorial for the event from the Legislature."
Discussion ensured on the Conference Center rent schedule.
"This is a working draft," Webb said. "It is based on several items, including similar conference centers across the state, what we were charging and what Luna County charges. I'm not convinced we want to leave the -+-day rate. I believe this will be a work in progress until we finish the policy and procedures. I would like to get it finalized, so we can start leasing the facility."
Ramos noted the -+-day rate had been done away with in the previous rent schedule. Kasten said the county has about five events that use the center for the whole weekend.
District 3 Commissioner Alicia Edwards suggested for three-day events, the set-up time be comped. Kasten suggested instead of calling it a half-day fee, there be a set-up fee. He also asked about the separate fee for the kitchen.
"While the daily fee is reasonable, if you add in the kitchen, it is not reasonable," Kasten said. "I don't want to price us out of the market."
District 4 Commissioner Billy Billings said he thought it was just a starting point and could be adjusted, "if we find it hard to cover expenses. I suggest you need a business plan. In a year or so, maybe two years, look back and see how much we have lost. What's the economic benefit, and how much are we willing to lose?"
Browne suggesting letting the center manager, who is to be hired, make changes as needed, without having to come back to the commissioners.
Ramos asked about allowing the employees to use the facility at 10 percent. Webb said that would be in policy and procedures.
General Services Director Randy Villa noted the rate for employees was 10 percent of the cost, not a 10 percent discount. "This is a top-notch facility. I think employees will have to understand that it costs us to keep it up, so it stays top notch. Make sure the rates are affordable, but now that it is fully furnished, the rates have to be high enough for us to pay for cleaning and maintenance."
Ramos asked that the next agenda in March include how to handle security and how to make sure it can be enforced. Webb said the county would have to determine who can provide security, because it "is all over the board all over the state."
After motions were made and not passed, Browne asked that the decision be put off until the March meeting. Webb said she was hoping for a decision so that leases could begin to be made for use of the center.
The next item was the Conference Center lease agreement. Robinson noted that several changes had been made and it meets legal review, although more changes could be made.
Billings approved of giving the center manager latitude to change items. "She will run into circumstances unknown to us and will have to come back to us with changes otherwise."
Browne asked why the item requesting literature to be used in any of the facilities be reviewed.
"We want to make sure if a group is advertising something that it meets what they have agreed to with us," Webb said. "We've had problems with that."
"I don't want someone getting in between me and my PR spin," Browne said.
"That is not the intent," Webb said. "We can expand on that paragraph."
"We have to protect ourselves to the fullest," Ramos said.
Edwards suggested a higher deposit. "I don't think what you have is a deterrent. It's really important that the deposit cover the facility cleaning and minor repairs. I suggest a separate deposit for the kitchen. The Volunteer Center will share its commercial kitchen use language. If someone is going to do damage, it's hard to collect, but a larger deposit can be a deterrent."
DWI Program Coordinator Cindy McClean asked for approval for four DWI-related items on the agenda. All were approved. They included a statement of assurances under the New Mexico Local DWI grant and distribution program for fiscal year 2018 funding application; a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Finance and Administration for the DWI Program 2018 funding application; assurances and cooperative agreement with the NM Department of Health for services related to the 2018 funding application; and a resolution authorizing the county to submit an application to DFA, Local Government Division to participate in the local DWI grant and distribution program for fiscal year 2018.
McClean said her program would be doing many of the same things, including a lot of prevention in almost all the schools, Bully Proofing, and Creating Lasting Families for schools and the community. "We collaborate with other agencies, such as the school health advisory councils, the Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, Healthy Kids-Healthy Communities, the Continuum of Care Coalition, and inmate support group. We collaborate, so we don't duplicate services. We also address teen dating violence. Our compliance officers have 135 on supervised probation and 28 on unsupervised probation for misdemeanor offenders. If the state doesn't sweep funds, we will be OK."
Edwards said: "When I asked Charlene about all the DWI paperwork, she told me Cindy's program is an award-winning program and people across the state look to Cindy for a model program."
Browne asked if the Casino Nights would continue. McClean said they would be held after the prom.
County Clerk Marisa Castrillo asked for appointments to the 2017 Purge Board. Two Democrats, Sharon Bookwalter and Patricia Cano and one Republican Carol Lutz were appointed. The two alternates were set as Democrat Frances Vasquez and Republican Pilar Killough.
Webb asked for approval for the transfer of a 2008 Chevy Cobalt from the Senior Program to the County Manager's Office, "so we have more than one vehicle available. HMS has questioned why the senior program had so many vehicles, especially passenger vehiclesG