The Grant County Commission, during a special meeting prior to Tuesday's work session, passed a notice of intent to adopt a resolution to re-authorize the 1/8 percent tax to fund Central Dispatch. The issue will have to be put to the electorate.
"We cannot put the issue on the general election ballot in November, because it has to be approved at least three months before it goes into effect Jan. 1," County Manager Jon Paul Saari said. "The best option is a mail-out ballot with the single issue. The only purpose of the tax is to fund Center Dispatch and E911, even though it is officially called the Countywide Emergency Communications and Emergency Medical and Behavioral Health Services Tax Adopting a Tax Increment, per the Department of Tax and Revenue."
He emphasized the initiative is not an increase, but simply a reauthorization of a tax that sunsets on Dec. 31.
Commission Chairman Brett Kasten asked what would happen if it were not passed.
Jean Fortenberry, Central Dispatch director, said the joint-powers agreement says Grant County and Silver City would pay, but, "if it did not pass, another agency would take it over and bill the county and city."
Saari said neither entity has the funding to pay the $300,000 each that would be required.
The final day of the election will be Sept. 18, with the ballots sent out a couple of weeks before, according to County Clerk Robert Zamarripa.
Saari said before Central Dispatch was created, each group had its own dispatch, which created slower response times to emergencies. "The way it is now, it speeds up dispatching units. It's really vital."
When the work session began, Kasten asked for a moment of silence for Nancy Stevens, who died Saturday. "She was a very involved citizen and did a lot for the schools and youths of the county."
The commission reviewed the agenda for Thursday's regular session.
"The meeting will start with a public hearing on whether to extend the extreme or severe drought resolution," Saari said.
Gary Benavidez, county wildland fire management officer, said conditions for fire are now low to moderate. "The seasonal drought shows some improvement in Grant County. By the end of the week, all entities will drop their emergency declarations."
He gave credit to the public for keeping the number of fires down, and "although there is still an opportunity for fire, it will be low."
Commissioners decided rather than put it to a vote at Thursday's meeting, they would prefer it sunset on July 16.
Saari said if things go bad, the commission could re-enact the emergency declaration taking effect immediately.
In the financial report, Saari said the county had spent $679,610.20 in the past two-week period, with no extraordinary expenditures.
During Thursday's regular meeting, The Volunteer Center will give a presentation on its proposal to provide services at the Mimbres Senior Center to grow the numbers of attendees.
Commissioner Christy Miller asked Senior Services Director Terry Trujillo if he had met with Alicia Edwards of The Volunteer Center. When he replied he had not, Miller said she would be more comfortable with the plan if they met first.
A report on the Senior Olympics program will be presented.
Two amendments and an addition to the Sheriff's Department Standard Operating Procedures Manual will be considered. They include evidence handling and control, drug detector police service dog and handler, and the special response team.
Sheriff Raul Villanueva said the changes are to "fit better with what we do in the process of tagging and removing evidence. We are implementing back the canine program, and this change explains the handler process. The special response team addition to the policy gives guidelines on call outs and how to handle them."
Saari said the evidence-handling portion will include a timeline to show the chain of custody of evidence.
Three consent items will be approved at the meeting for Phase 2 reconstruction of the Grant County Airport apron by W.H. Pacific, Inc., for engineering basic services, and construction observation and acceptance testing. The various task orders are estimated to cost, $49,984 plus New Mexico gross receipts tax; $129,721 plus NMGRT, and $56,746 plus GRT, for a timeline of about nine months.
The rest of the meeting will be continued in a future article.