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Grant County Commission discusses proposed alliance

Grant County Commissioners reviewed the agenda for Thursday's regular meeting, which will be held at 9 a.m. at the Grant County Administration Center.

Several contracts and agreements were discussed.

Six involved the Juvenile Probation Office, with three being amendments to professional service agreements—Yolanda Manzano will receive an increase of $13,580; Randal Compton, increase of $13,580; and Mary Lorraine Zunich for continuance of services through Dec. 31. Three new professional service agreements were discussed—Felix Ortega for $22,000; Luis Alvarado for $16,000; and Jean Block Consulting Inc. for $5,000 for Restorative Justice Training. Ortega and Alvarado will provide surveillance services for the bracelet monitoring program, which has shown success.

Two professional service agreements with the DWI Program were discussed—Chris Helgert with the Recovery Management Center for $27,900; and Meadow Clark with Conflict Mediation for $4.020.

A memorandum of understanding will be considered between the Grant County DWI Program and Santa Clara Police Department for $1,000.

Another MOU with Adult Drug Court will provide a continuum of services for adult offenders in the amount of $16,032.

A fulfillment agreement will be voted on at the Thursday meeting to pay $4,000 to the Silver City Arts and Cultural District to provide tourism services.

A grant agreement with the Department of Cultural Affairs, State Library Division would provide $5,220.02 to the Gila Valley Library.

A membership agreement with the Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments and Grant County for $5,250 will offer COG services to the county. The agreement must also be ratified as a resolution.

A joint-powers agreement to create the Southwestern County Commission Alliance elicited some discussion. The alliance is an attempt to bring together the southwestern counties as a region to address similar issues they face.
"At the state level, we have fewer representatives, so we have to band together to have any clout," Saari said. "We have already gotten Grant, Sierra, Hidalgo and Otero on board. Catron County may be interested, and so might Lincoln and Chavez counties. We have also sent an invitation to Apache County, Arizona. This will give us a bigger voice."

He said the counties face the same issues, such as water, landfill, sewage, forest roads, payment in lieu of taxes, Secure Rural Schools funding, and juvenile detention facilities.

Saari said the first meeting focused on forest roads, but "it's not the only issue. It was just happening the fastest."

Commissioner Christy Miller said the counties should be concerned about the health, safety and welfare of their citizens. "I was very, very unhappy with the tone of the first meeting, especially the law enforcement from another county. I thought it was going to be a roundtable for all of us. We need to do a better job of setting up the agenda. Travel management is important, but there are other issues. We do need to work together. I was unhappy with the comments about cutting off locks."

Commissioner Gabriel Ramos, who convened and facilitated the meeting, said: "The road issue is important to many of us. It's our beach. We want to make sure we do not suffer economically from road closures. Yes, I got nasty emails, but I also got tons of email supporting keeping the roads open. I will do everything in my conscience to use the forest—the land of many uses."

Commission Chairman Brett Kasten pointed out that they could not control speakers and public input. "We have to let both sides talk, and we should hear the other side, too. The first meeting was not as pretty as we would have liked it to be."

Saari said it was the first meeting, and he believes the JPA will change and evolve.

Ramos said the juvenile detention system is a big issue, as are landfills. He said the next meeting would be rescheduled from the original July 25 to Aug. 1, at 1 p.m. at the Grant County Administration Center.

Language in the JPA includes that counties have been "repeatedly and adversely affected by exclusion of effective coordination required by federal law in order to maintain and uphold the guaranteed rights and privileges of local citizenry and the protection of our natural resources for the benefit of our citizens in southwest New Mexico, …"

Saari said the JPA includes language to have "the parties agree to unite in all endeavors aimed at elevating the importance of the inclusion of county commissions in initial stages of planning and identified specifically through coordination with the federal, state and local resource agencies relative to that which affect their citizenry."

The JPA will be considered at the regular meeting.

In resolutions, cooperative agreements with the New Mexico Department of Transportation will be considered. They include for improvement of roads, for cooperative projects, and for the School Bus Route Program within Grant County,

An indigent burial will be considered.

County reports will be covered in a subsequent article.

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