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Commissioner hear reports, including progress on audits

In a continuation of the Grant County Commission work session Tuesday morning, elected officials and department heads gave reports.

Undersheriff Kevin Flamm said: "We are busy investigating a lot of auto burglaries in the county. We are working with the police departments on nabbing the culprits."

Treasurer Alfred Sedillo said discussions with the Taxation and Revenue Department and the Department of Finance and Administration "have accomplished nothing. They are not allowing partial payments of delinquent property taxes. It will require legislative change."

He said the TRD had been in his office for the past couple of weeks, and as a result, the county had collected $96,000 in delinquent taxes.



"Some have been put on an installment plan, but they have to fill out an application, showing hardship," Sedillo said. "The application has to be approved by the state."

He announced that tax bills would be mailed out on October 31.

County Clerk Robert Zamarripa said his office has been very busy.

"So far, we have issued 3,992 early voting ballots and absentee ballots," Zamarripa said. "We've had a 19 percent voter turnout already."

He said that it has come to his attention that in some states absentee ballots are not counted unless it is a close race.

"I assure you that absentee ballots are counted the same as any other ballot," Zamarripa said. "When you cast a ballot, it gets counted no matter how close the race."

He said his office has also received many questions about the Convenience Centers and the ballots on demand that will be available. "'Why only two Convenience Centers in Silver City,' they ask."

"We have had the ballot-on-demand for years for those who vote early," Zamarripa said. "And yes, in spite of construction, the Grant County Business and Conference Center will be open on Election Day. We always think of the 'what ifs.' There will also be signs at former polling places directing voters to the Convenience Centers."

Early voting will continue at the County Clerk's Office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday this week and next week Monday through Saturday. Early voting may also be done at the Bayard Community Center, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., through Saturday this week, and Tuesday through Saturday next week.  Early voting ends Nov. 3.

On Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, The Woman's Club and the County Business and Conference Center will be open as Convenience Centers, with any registered voter in the county being able to vote at the locations, as well as at the Tyrone Community Center, the Santa Clara National Guard Armory, the Bayard Community Center and the Hurley Community Center. All these venues are open to any voter registered in the county.

The outlying venues at the Cliff High School, San Lorenzo Elementary School, the Sapillo Volunteer Fire Department, the Pinos Altos VFD, and in Mule Creek and Hachita will be available for voters living in the specific areas. "If residents of the areas are in town, they can vote in town. But residents of Silver City cannot vote at the outlying polling places, except by provisional ballot."

"As the cost of the systems comes down, we will be able to have more centers," Zamarripa said. "We have to make sure they are handicapped-accessible and have secure Internet and wireless."

Each convenience center will have three computers and three printers to deliver the ballots on demand quickly. "It will take longer to vote than to receive the ballot," he said.

Senior Services Director Terry Trujillo thanked Public Works Director Justin Reese for his staff having completed major improvements at senior centers. "We will do more within the next six months or so," Trujillo said.

Commissioner Christy Miller asked what was happening between The Volunteer Center and the Mimbres Senior Center on the proposal for the TVC to provide services at the center. Trujillo said TVC director Alicia Edwards and a staff member had met with the seniors for a question and answer session. County Manger Jon Paul Saari reported a contract had been signed.

Reese said his staff had been busy in the senior centers. "We are getting quotes for (heating/ventilation and air conditioning) for the Mimbres Senior Center, and then we will work on the HVAC for the Gila Senior Center."

He said a new well had had to be drilled at Mimbres, after the previous well collapsed while being repaired. "The Mimbres Methodist Church let us run a hose and use their water, while the center had none. I would like to reimburse them for the water usage."

Reese reported his staff had made the doors to the restrooms in the Santa Clara Senior Center handicapped-accessible. "We also put in a double oven and plan to put gravel behind the building."

A double oven has been installed at the Silver Senior Center, and quotes are being received for remodeling the kitchen. The funding is from grants.

"We have been cutting weeds at Bataan Memorial Park," Reese continued. "The Shooting Range is looking for an additional speaker at the pistol range."

North Hurley Park has received a new shade structure and a culvert under the sidewalk.

"We are draining swamp coolers and preparing for winter," Reese said. "This Friday, we will meet with W.H. Pacific and Southwest Concrete for an airport apron. We have also installed new carpet in the Assessor's and Treasurer's offices, so the whole building has new carpet."

Earl Moore, road superintendent, said his department staff went to Hachita and installed a new approach ramp for the dumpster and cleaned up the yard.

"We did a rap project on Sacaton Road," he reported. "We chip sealed and fogged 20 streets in Bayard."

The department is doing routine patching and working on drainage on Little Walnut Road.

"I met with Ty Bays and the Forest Service about a borrow pit to fix the road to Burro Mountain Homestead," Moore said.

He reported fuel thefts have damaged several pieces of equipment, including a blade, as well as the Humane Society truck. "Because of fuel prices, people are doing a lot of damage to get to fuel. For one, it was more than $1,000 worth of damage for $100 worth of fuel."

Moore said the Road Department had been busier late this year than normal. The employees have put in a lot of hours.

Saari said he met with Duck Creek residents, who wanted the county to look at several issues, including where fine clay gets slick when wet. "We will use material to plate areas, when we are working on the fairgounds. We'll have material nearby."

He would be attending the multi-line insurance meeting in Las Cruces on Tuesday afternoon and part of Wednesday.

Saari reported he met with the auditor, who needed a copy of a bank statement to complete the 2010 audit. "He said it would then be a couple of weeks for the 2011 one and then the 2012 one. I emphasized that the county had been told it could not get Community Development Block Grant or capital outlay funding without the audits being in by Nov. 15. He told me he was not taking any vacation and would complete them."

"This is ridiculous already," Commissioner Gabriel Ramos said. "We need to send him a letter that the audits must be done by Nov. 15. Otherwise, it will cost the residents of Grant County a great deal of money."

Miller echoed it, saying: "Especially when it's millions of dollars at risk."

Ramos requested the auditor be on the agenda for the Nov. 6 meeting.

"I would like him to say: 'They're sent,'" Commission Chariman Brett Kasten said.

Saari reported the contractor on the Business and Conference Center, T.A. Cole, was working with architect Kevin Robinson to minimize the impact on the county's tenant, Ace Hardware. "They were going to require the store to shut down an aisle at a time, but Kevin talked them into a new collar design for the air-conditioning, so the contractor does not have to go inside Ace. The job will be finished in March or April. As soon as it's done, we'll go after funding to remodel the inside."

Miller asked that the volunteers doing education at the jail be on the agenda to give a report at the next meeting.

Saari said he has not heard back on the Essential Air Service contract, but that Great Lakes Airlines is slated to fly two round-trips a day to Phoenix, beginning Dec. 1, with the planes being overnighted in Phoenix, so in case of mechanical problems, flights do not have to be cancelled.

"We are still working with Silver City on getting Seaport or Mr. Frost to provide a smaller service to probably Santa Fe, as it is not a hub, and would not be in conflict with EAS," Saari said.

Ramos thanked Reese for cleaning up the ball fields.

Kasten said the Fair Board and the county committee are close to determining what type of building to replace the damaged one. "Probably at the next meeting, we'll do bids for the demolition of the old one."

Saari pointed out that Jan. 13 begins a 60-day legislative session. "It will be vital that all counties and municipalities have a presence the whole time, whether officials or a lobbyist. I'm doing research on renting a place for the two months to see if it is cheaper. I will present what I found out at the Nov. 6 meeting."

The regular session will be at 9 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 25 at the Grant County Administration Center.

Only one work session and one regular session are planned for each of the next two months. In November, the work session will be Nov. 6, with the regular meeting on Nov. 8. The dates for the two meetings in December are slated for Dec. 11 and 13, unless the Commission needs to call an emergency meeting. They will take place at 9 a.m. at the Administration Center Commission Chambers.

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