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[Editor's Note: This is the fifth and final article in a multi-part series of articles covering the almost five-hour long Grant County Commission meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017]

By Mary Alice Murphy

The next items covered in this article will include the agreements and resolutions, and county reports of the Grant County combined work session and regular meeting, which took place on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.

The first agreement approved addressed the investment grade energy audit and project proposal. County Manager Charlene Webb said it was the final draft.

County Attorney Abigail Robinson said she had pulled it from last month's agenda, because the company was going through a transition from the parent company.

A sub-lease agreement with the New Mexico General Services Department, Facilities Management Division for the Fort Bayard Volunteer Fire Department building was approved. Webb said the lease is for 1.666 acres for 10 years. It provides extra land for the department to use. The members of the VFD are already using the building, which is leased by the county from GSD.

The bargaining unit contract for 2017-19 was ratified.

Robinson said the revisions came from tentative agreements with the union. "The union president has not let us know whether the members have ratified it. My recommendation is to approve it, because we reached the tentative agreements in good faith."

Commissioner Harry Browne moved to approve, with the change of date to be that of when it is approved by both parties.

The commission also approved the annual NM Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for the 2017 Emergency Performance Management Grant program. "It pays a portion of the emergency manager's salary," Webb said.

Under resolutions, the first one approved the polling places for 2018's primary and general elections. "We must approve no later than the first Monday of November," Clerk Marisa Castrillo said. "We made no changes. Hachita, Redrock and Mule Creek are all mail out ballots. They worked very well last time. We had a much higher turnout with the mail ballots at 59.2 percent. Redrock increased from 45 percent to 70 percent; Hachita from 34 percent to 50 percent. It is a savings for us not having to pay poll workers. Before we had to have four persons on each site."

Vasquez presented the budget adjustments, most of which were increases offset by decreases.

Webb explained the next resolution, which was for internal control of line item adjustments.

"It would allow for Linda and me to do line item adjustments without having to bring every adjustment to you for approval," Webb said. "It was new to me that we had to do that when I came here. In my previous job, I could do line item adjustments if they were only between line items within a fund. We will still report them every month. This will allow us to manage the budget more efficiently. What's happening is that a department may overspend on one line item, but can take from another line item. For instance, Raul Turrieta may need more in supplies, but has extra money in training. You would trust us to change it and we would give a report. You could still amend anything. It won't affect the Commissioners' Fund or take money outside of a department to another department."

Vasquez gave further clarification. "Say the Sheriff went over on overtime, we can adjust the money from another line item. On the Commissioners' Fund, we typically don't do any changes until the end of the year."

Commission Chairman Brett Kasten said he didn't believe the Commissioners' fund needed to be exempted, because everything is usually earmarked.

The wording "intra-departmental" was added before adjustments and the resolution was approved.

Commissioners approved a resolution for Planning and Economic Development Director Michael "Mischa" Larisch to apply for funding from the New Mexico Water Trust Board for the North Hurley and Rosedale Road drainage projects. "I will attend a mandatory meeting and will put in the application. The projects can be phased."

County Treasurer Steve Armendariz proposed that an administrative fee be charged if property tax on an account is less that $5. "At least seven other counties in the state have this. Lincoln County has had it for 18 years. I just want to try to generate a little bit more revenue. I figure it would have generated $7,200 last year, which would have offset our moving toward e-billing, which is now authorized by state statute. We have 2,449 counts that were $4.99 or less. It's by account, not by parcel." According to the resolution, the fee will equal the difference between the amount due and $5 on accounts of more than $.01 (one cent) but less than $5. It was approved.

Commissioners also approved a resolution supporting asking the New Mexico Office of the State Auditor to audit the process that Gila Regional Medical Center took in the request for proposal (RFP) process in choosing a new provider for the Cancer Center.

Webb said Commissioner Gabriel Ramos, who was not present at the meeting, had asked for it and said the draft met his intent.

Commissioner Alicia Edwards asked for clarification that approving it would have the state auditor do the process. Yes, Webb said.

Commissioner Billy Billings said his concern is that the auditor is not going to audit what needs to be audited. "You can't audit common sense."

"We're supporting what (Rep. Rodolpho "Rudy") Martinez asked for," Kasten said.

Commissioners approved the New Mexico Association of Counties legislative priorities for the 2018 session.

The first is Forfeiture Act Reform. Webb explained the request corrects language for the sheriff's department.

The second priority is to protect county funding of healthcare. It supports involvement of county policy makers in planning, funding and service delivery decision-making, while opposing any measure that would further shift federal and state healthcare costs to county government.

On tax reform, NMAC supports legislation that protects county revenue and does not have a negative impact on county government. NMAC strongly believes that counties must be at the table for and fully participate in all tax reform efforts; strives to minimize tax policy that places counties and other local governments in conflict; and opposes any effort to reduce the state's hold harmless distribution to counties or that reduces county GRT (gross receipts tax) authority.

NMAC supports enacting the Local Election Act, which would align the date for local, non-partisan elections of entities that have taxation authority, to the same day in the odd-numbered year.

And the last priority is to support legislation that would permanently increase the distribution percentage of the 2014 HB16 Liquor Tax Distribution to the local DWI grant fund, by extending the sunset of the 2014 act.

Commissioners approved the priorities.

A base bid from Morrow Enterprises Inc. was approved in the amount of $149,746 for a 40,000-gallon fire water storage tank for the Lower Mimbres Volunteer Fire Department.

A bid was received from Lawley Ford for the purchase of a truck with certain specs for the High Desert Humane Society. The bid from Lawley was $30,442. The bids off the state contract varied from $26,346 down to $22,098.

Browne said in his estimation, the state has the right to give a 5 percent bonus for purchasing locally, but not a 27 percent difference.

Kasten said the only bidder was Lawley.

"You can reject the bid," Webb said.

Billings moved to reject the bid and it was seconded.

"We don't have to reissue the bid," Webb said. "We can just buy off the state contract."

Edwards said she would like it noted that the county tried to buy locally but were unable to.

As the Grant County Health Care Claims Board, commissioners approved the 18 Gila Regional Medical Center claims for $78,513.29 and two GRMC ambulance claims for $2,347.57 for a total of $80,860.86 from the Indigent Fund.

Browne noted that the amount is half what is in the account right now. "This is much higher than usual."

Webb said 72 percent of the costs were two big claims from an inmate, "who shouldn't be in jail at all. It was the same individual as last month. We must pay indigent claims. When we run out of money in the Indigent Fund, it would be 100 percent paid out of the General Fund. We can transfer money into the Indigent Fund, but not out of it."

Edwards noted that "for at least one of these really high claims, the county has made an effort to address it, but has not received cooperation."

Next came county reports.

Detention Center Administrator Mike Carillo said the jail has five vacancies they are trying to fill. "Our average daily population since last month is 81, seven less than last month. High male population was 73, eight less than last month and high female population was 27, one more than last month."

Road Supervisor Earl Moore said his department is back out at Wind Canyon working on the low water crossing.

General Services Director Randy Villa said the maintenance department was working at the fairgrounds. "Airport fuel prices have gone up, due to the shutting of refineries during Hurricane Harvey. I assure you we will have monthly reports from Corre Caminos.

Larisch said the Tu Casa sheeting is complete and roofing will begin. "For LS Mesa, we need bids for the well connection to get water to the station."

Webb explained separate funds were used to build the station and the well and connections will be paid by the volunteer fire department.

Billings asked if it were for just water or included sewer. Larisch said it was just for water.

Billings noted that Hanover is having problems with its septic systems.

Kasten said it would be extremely expensive for Hanover to tie into the regional water treatment plant.

Undersheriff Kevin Flamm said the Sheriff's Office had 648 calls for service in August, ending in 143 reports, investigation of 16 crashes and serving of 540 papers. The office drove 6,307 miles transporting inmates to prisons.

"We have had a high number of burglaries," Flamm said. "We are asking the public to report if you see something unusual."

Browne asked if the office had any openings, to which Flamm said five positions are tentatively filled, with one certified and the rest will have to go to the police academy for training.

Armendariz said his office received about $10,000 into the General Fund, with $1,500 for debt service and $1.7 million in other revenues for other entities that his office processes. "My chief deputy is taking courses for certification."

Billings reported the County Fair (which ended Sunday) would have a carnival for the first time in several years.

"I want to congratulate Charlene Webb for completing three years of service in Grant County," Billings said. "And we welcome further questions on Juniper Services." Juniper is the entity the county has hired to look into what would be the best status for Gila Regional Medical Center, and whether it should remain as county-owned or be stand alone or some other model that would best serve the community.

Edwards asked that the next meeting have an executive session to discuss the county manager and county attorney contracts.

Kasten asked that the November meetings be set, with the work session on Nov. 7, and the regular session to take place on Nov. 9.

Webb, in her brief report, said auditors had been to the county for one week and were expected to return next week.

The meeting adjourned about 1:50 p.m.

Live from Silver City

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The Beat as a new column for you gardeners out there. The Grant County Extension Service will bring you monthly columns on gardening issues. The first one posted is on Winterizing your houseplants and patio plants.

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