[Editor's Note: This is part 1 of a multi-part series of articles on the work session and regular meetings of the Grant County Commission on July 23 and 25, 2019.

By Mary Alice Murphy

First on the agenda, department heads gave county reports.

Detention Center Administrator Mike Carillo said over the past month, the jail has seen an increase in jail population due to warrants and probation violations. "Today, we are at our high, 96."

"We are somewhat short-staffed and trying to hire," Carillo said. "Some of our new hires cannot serve by themselves yet during training, so we're running a little overtime. We are looking to hire more with detention center experience, so they can get to work more quickly."

Road Superintendent Earl Moore said the department is working hard on Rosedale Road. "We plan to start paving tomorrow and we will rehab it up to Spring Creek Road. Now that we are getting rain and not just dust, roads will hold together better."

Commission Chairman Chris Ponce thanked Moore for staying on top of road issues.

General Service Director Randy Villa ceded some of his time to two of his departments, before giving his report. Rebekah Wenger, Grant County Airport manager, reported that the airport received a Federal Aviation Administration inspection from June 24-26 to make sure it was in compliance with commercial service. "We had only one deficiency. Apparently, the fuel farm inspectors come out quarterly to inspect, and we were supposed to provide the training for the inspection. We held the pre-bid meeting for the terminal renovation. Several attended, so I hope we get several bids. The Airport Executives Association gave us an award for training excellence."

She reported that Advanced Air has a 97 percent on-time record for its flights. "They also are doing some charter flights for Freeport McMoRan, and they buy lots of fuel from us. We have sold 110,000 gallons of fuel since they came. Advanced Air has had no cancellations. We are seeing more people coming through, because they know it's reliable, even if the weather is a bit stormy."

Corre Caminos Manager Kim Dominguez reported that so far this year, the transit service has provided 71,000 rides, which is about even with last year. "The grant we apply for just opened up, so I will be working on it. I'm also working on the budget, which is due in September to begin October 1. We had a Department of Transportation inspection, and although I haven't yet received the report, it was a good productive visit Everything is running well and smoothly."

Villa said several fires are burning in the wilderness areas, but none is large. "We, as volunteer fire departments, have put out several small fires. One in the Mimbres, the Montoya Fire, was contained by several VFDs with a little help from the Forest Service, but no structures burned, except for the shed where it started. On the Fourth of July in Indian Hills. Pinos Altos VFD and Silver Fire jumped on it as quickly as possible, with minor damage. Tyrone had a fire start with a lightning strike on Apache Road. We got on it fast. We're ready for lightning fires this time of year. Most of the time, the lightning strikes and then it rains, putting it out. We're prepared if the rain doesn't put it out."

Community Development and Planning Director Michael "Mischa" Larisch said the Whiskey Creek Volunteer Fire Station construction continues. The bid opening for the airport terminal renovation will be on Thursday. "We had a non-mandatory pre-bid meeting for the Tyrone ADA project, which will also be opened on Thursday. The Administration Center Parking lot is being designed by Stantec. The ICIP is on the agenda. It can be tabled if we get some discussion going. I did change some things, so you have the most recent version of the project list. It is due on September 2, so we need a resolution accepting it in August. Senior Centers' is due Sept. 10, so we'll be working with HMS on the Gila and Mimbres centers."

Commissioner Harry Browne asked about the parking lot design because he noticed the recycling bin is no long there.

"We moved it to your school (Aldo Leopold Charter School)," Larisch said. "We talked to Wayne Sherwood and he was pleased to have it."

County Manager Charlene Webb noted that, as of yesterday (Monday, July 22), it was in the ALCS parking lot.

Commissioner Javier Salas asked about Bataan Park plans.

Webb said the county had received two quotes. "One for $14,000 for two ADA compliant parking places and the ramp into the building. And one quote for $16,000 for four ADA parking places. We recommend the four parking places and the ramp. We can use the project as leverage if we receive the CDBG (Community Block Development Grant) funding."

There was no public input.

Mary Beth Folia of Literacy Link-Leamos gave a presentation at the request of Commissioner Alicia Edwards who was absent, due to a prior work commitment.

"We provide one-to-one adult training," Folia Said. "Most of our clients are from 20 to 45 years old. Many people in this area are reading at level one, which is equivalent to about an 8-year-old. In our model, people come in and we help them fill out applications, find a tutor and help them get their GED.

"I would like to talk about one student," she continued. "She was raised in an abusive home, got pregnant in 8th grade and had her daughter. Then she fell into drugs. She ended up in jail in Grants. God became important in her life and she turned her life around. It takes about 100 hours to go up each level of reading comprehension. She returned to Silver City, got her daughter back, and came to us at the 7th grade level. She got two part-time jobs and got her GED in 2½ years and went to a full-time job."

Folia explained that LL-L is 100 percent grant funded, and this year, it did not receive any Freeport funding from the Community Investment Fund. "Our main funding comes from the state. The New Mexico Literacy Coalition got moved into the Higher Education Department. We do have a relationship with Western New Mexico University, which has a classroom setting for remedial reading. A lot of our students have children and no transportation, so it's hard for them to fit in a classroom setting. We are not intimidating, like a class might be. They can go at their own pace. With Higher Ed over the literacy coalition, it planned to take all their funding. I sent you a packet of information. Our LL-L board president was one of Howie Morales' teachers. So, we got Rep. Rebecca Dow and Howie involved. They got Higher Ed to back off from taking away all the funding, and we're safe for at least another year."

She said LL-L serves about 200 people a year. "We help people who fell through the cracks. This student I told you about, her daughter is now going into 9th grade. We graduated our student at a ceremony, and her daughter was beaming. She said: 'I help my mom study, and she helps me study.'"

All LL-L tutors are volunteers. "We are always looking for more."

Browne thanked her for her work. "I wondered what might have been illegal at the taking of all the funding."

"As I understand it, if the literacy coalition contract comes up for bid, it is supposed to be offered publicly and sent on email to everyone who might be interested," Folia said. "This time emails were sent out only to certain adult education programs. Some think that was unethical. They have apologized and because of pressure we and others were able to prevail. Certain notifications needed to be made and they weren't."

Commissioner Billy Billings asked if LL-L helps children.

"We serve about 15-20 a year," Folia said. "The program is primarily for adults and we are not supposed to have more than 15 percent children. We do offer the books to students at all the elementary schools. We give out about 20,000 books a year, so that every student gets from five to 12 books a year."

Billings asked about volunteer hours. Folia said: "We provide 600 tutoring hours at the jail and more than 400 hours to our one-on-one adults over the year. We are dealing with parents who have trouble meeting basic needs, so books would be a luxury. Reading leads to success. A child should be reading well by third grade. If books are in the house, children do better, especially if their parents read to them.

Ponce said: "I commend you for this program and what the volunteers do. I feel this program is a foundation of economic development. I appreciate the volunteers and your work."

The next article will begin the review of the regular agenda for the Thursday, July 25, 2019 meeting.