By Mary Alice Murphy
Early in the combination work session and regular meeting of Aug. 8, 2019, the Grant County Commission heard from elected officials.
Veronica Rodriguez, deputy treasurer, presented the Treasurer's Office report. She said the office had a property tax collection rate for fiscal year 2019 of 92.75 percent, with about $442,000 outstanding. Since the last report the office has collected $27,172.79 for a total collection of Grant County property taxes of $1,660,362.54. No one had questions.
Detention Center Administrator Mike Carillo gave the first county report. He said the jail had six vacancies, is receiving applications and has received three applicants. He spoke briefly about the inmate intervention program and its associated art symposium scheduled for Oct. 9, at the Western New Mexico University Library. He reported Blue Cross Blue Shield continues to do care management of inmates. "As a participant, we have the option to join Blue Cross Blue Shield's care coordination program. The program includes a 90-day follow up after release. Miss Gregory comes to the jail every Tuesday to visit with inmates. She helps with Medicaid. Seven out of 10 participants have been accepted into the program. One declined and two were unable to be contacted as they had already been released." He said the Tu Casa Advisory Board continues to meet. The jail has had larger numbers of inmates, with the last report at 90, and the day of this report at 99. He also provided a snapshot of the accreditation process to commissioners.
Commissioner Alicia Edwards asked about the date of 2010 for the last accreditation report. County Manager Charlene Webb confirmed the date as when the standards were created.
Commissioner Harry Browne asked why the other health insurance provider Western Sky, which has a similar program to the Blue Cross Blue Shield, was not working in the jail.
"It has not been as active," Carillo said. "It was the only other MCO (medical care organization) that contacted us, but it hasn't come back."
Road Superintendent Earl Moore said his crews had gone to Hurley to clear up rain debris. "We're working on Rosedale Road and hope to pave next week."
Edwards asked about a low water crossing in Wind Canyon.
Moore said he is talking with engineers about fixing it.
General Service Director Randy Villa said maintenance had been busy with drainage issues at Bataan Park. "We have had only about 32 fires in the entire Gila, not just Grant County. The Forest Service is monitoring them and will report to us next month."
Webb said she had one item to report. "Grant County was selected to present our proposal for a behavioral health program at the Detention Center. Our proposal was accepted. We will receive $410,000 to provide the programs at the jail. The biggest part is for FACT (forensic assertive community training). We will put out an RFP for a provider. The service is targeted to those with serious mental illness co-occurring with drug issues within the detention center. It is a good fit with our Stepping Up program. FACT has been successful in other cities and counties across the nation. We will also be expanding our therapy and will be looking for a provider. We are increasing our Stepping Up coordinator to fully implement the process. Our group is still together, and we are putting the pieces together. Inmates continue to face transportation and housing challenges. We will also provide crisis intervention training for law enforcement and detention center staff. It is a comprehensive behavioral training. There is a potential for recurring funding. Five counties were awarded the money. Hopefully, we can show the need and get recurring funding to address the issues. I'm excited but a bit nervous, because it will be a lot of work."
Commission Chairman Chris Ponce said he appreciated what she has done.
"It's a one-year pilot program, and we will report monthly," Webb said. "Mika, I don't know her last name, will be the liaison. We all want to demonstrate the need and would love to see and hope for recurring funding."
Edwards asked about the other counties. Webb said Sierra and San Juan counties were among those who received the funding.
"It was an idea to address rural frontier communities," Webb said. "San Juan is not really rural, but the criteria were statistical data. It targets rural frontier areas. We will also have a discharge planner, who will be able to meet with every individual leaving our facility, making sure they have a plan to help them be more successful into community re-entry."
Commissioner Billy Billings said it seemed a bit overwhelming. "How many programs did you say? Six programs?" When he asked if it would overlap at all with accreditation, he was told it wouldn't. "We meet 132 out of 194 standards. I guess I need to meet with Mike to find out more."
Webb said accreditation is more about practices and procedures. Vital Core is one part.
Commissioner Javier Salas asked if it mattered how long the person spent in jail. "Will every prisoner get help?"
"That's our goal, even if they are in for a short time," Webb said. "This program is for only the non-violent offenders."
Salas said: "There are a lot in jail with substance abuse issues. I see it as a revolving door. A program like this may stop that."
No one came forward for public input.
The first of two resolutions was addressed. The topic was the ICIP (infrastructure capital improvement plan). Community Development and Planning Director Michael "Mischa" Larisch was unavailable for the meeting.
Browne asked if it was still within the period for getting commissioner input.
"The ICIP must be done by the last August meeting," Webb said. "We must send it to the state by the first of September."
Browne said he had procrastinated and had not read everything on the plan. "I want to talk to Mischa and Manager Webb to discuss electric vehicles."
Ponce said the road equipment works hard. "I would prefer having the Bataan Memorial Park as No. 1, with the trails plan as No.2, and I'm having trouble with No. 3."
Edwards noted the Road Department was at No. 3.
Webb said: "Yes, we need road department equipment and we need other vehicles, too. We would be happy having either in No. 3, so we can move us into our own vehicle replacement plan. The assessor needs a new vehicle and the treasurer's office vehicle has issues."
Moore said his department needs a steel-wheel roller for pothole patching. "If we can get caught up with vehicles, then we can make it part of our budget."
Billings asked how many vehicles the Road Department needs.
"We need four or five," Moore said. "We need two maintenance vehicles, plus one for the assessor's office, one for the airport and one for the detention center. We can put the roller off for another year, but probably not longer than that."
Ponce said: "Somehow we need to put in a program to replace vehicles on our own. I see others that need to be in the top 5 items."
Browne said he didn't understand how the county packages items for the legislative session. "Can we combine items that, say, are for transportation?"
Webb said the only requirement for capital outlay requests is that they are in the top 3 or they will be rejected.
"Could Corre Caminos be part of vehicles in the top 3?" Browne asked. "I don't want the amounts we are requesting to be too small."
Webb said she agreed. "We would just have to detail the needs. I think it's doable to combine the needed vehicles into No. 3."
She noted that the $100,000 for trails is just for the plan. "They won't give us more money until we have the plan. In phase 2, then we will ask for funding to build trails. We can definitely bump up the amount for Bataan Park. This amount is for the architectural, design and other planning we will need if the CDBG (Community Block Development Grant) is successful in getting it funded. We can ask for more now and explain that we have other potential funding sources."
Edwards suggested putting the vehicle requests into one capital outlay request to ask for more funding. "I am also in favor of increasing the request for Bataan, because I think the project will continue to grow."
Webb said after the plan for the trails is complete, Bataan could also tie into the outdoor recreation and trails funding.
Ponce agreed, saying that outdoor recreation and trails are part of economic development. "There are a lot of different definitions of outdoor recreation. I'm not convinced that $100,000 is enough for the plan. I would advocate increasing it to $150,000."
Salas said that it is possible the Legislature will have another good year, but "after that it may go back to normal, with not much funding available. Does the hierarchy of where they are placed in the document count?"
Webb repeated that the legislators look only at the top three in the ICIP, but "legislators will put money where they want to."
"It is essential we lobby for our requests," Salas said. "Our U.S. senators are interested in outdoor recreation."
Browne asked if the ICIP could be amended at that meeting and was told yes.
Edwards suggested increasing the total amount for Bataan Memorial Park to $1 million, vehicles to $600,000. "Why not ask for the total amounts?"
Billings noted that Western New Mexico University requested $12 million and got $1 million."
Webb said she would ask Larisch how Bataan could be phased.
"Will we have time to get it spent?" Edwards asked. "I know there are deadlines."
Webb said: "If we have projects hanging out after four years, the Legislature won't give us any money the next year. Sometimes, we get all we ask for and sometimes, much less."
Browne said it's the county's two representatives and one senator, "three people that we have to lobby. We will be competing with Prospectors on their requests for the county and all the non-profits that request money at the yearly symposium for our legislators."
Webb said the county's project also are presented at Prospectors and they go into the consideration.
"We may be crowding out other projects in the community that are worthy," Browne said. "We need to know what is reasonable to shoot for. $600,000? The university is not in the same pool of funding as we are. We lobby at the house and senate levels. The university has to lobby the governor, too. The governor has money for statewide items."
"Yes, but the governor can also line item veto projects," Webb said. "But our lobbying efforts are better spent at the house and senate levels. As long as our application is good, and the house and senate can justify them, we can probably get what we need."
Ponce asked what was realistic. "If we get the CDBG of $750,000, it is easy for us to use funding for road department equipment."
Edwards said the county needs the $250,000 for the engineering and planning for the Bataan project, even if the CDBG is awarded.
"Can we increase it to $350,000?" Browne asked.
"The staff has to be able to justify the request," Webb said. "When we talk Bataan, we know the ADA is required. The drainage will require a whole other study. We need the $250,000 even if we get the CDBG award."
Edwards asked if the drainage study could be added.
Salas noted that Bataan has other current needs, such as fixing the restrooms.
Webb said it was doable to change things on the Bataan project. "We know we need the $250,000 in addition to the $750,000 of the CDBG for the ADA project. If we do not get the capital outlay request of $250,000 for engineering and planning, that would come out of our pocket. The ICIP has to be turned into the state in September. We can amend it if we get the CDBG, but an amendment would have to be approved by the state."
Edwards said she would defer to Webb and Larisch. "I'm not sure the title, which states Bataan Memorial Park ADA Compliance needs to be changed. I think the drainage has to be part of it, so the ADA improvements are not washed out."
Webb said: "We do have to change the title if we include other phases. But, the ICIP must be approved at the Aug. 22 meeting. Talk to your legislators and get an idea of what is reasonable for funding requests."
Browne moved to table it to the final meeting in August. The tabling was approved.
The second resolution addressed the annual requirements for certification and commitments to apply for CDBG funding. It was moved, seconded and approved.
The last item of business was an RFP (request for proposal) for the airport terminal renovation.
"The bid awardee we chose has been deemed unresponsive, so we have chosen Classic Industries for the base price and lots 2, 3, and 4," Webb said.
Billings asked what work the county has done with Classic.
Webb said the gentleman the county is working with on the Bataan project is from Classic. The bid was approved unanimously.
Billings asked: "I have a question on who is responsible for holding a contractor's feet to the fire. I was impressed with the way the Tu Casa project got all the problems resolved."
"It's a combination," Webb said. "Me and staff."
In commissioners' reports, Salas said he was looking forward to the Outdoor Recreation Conference that will take place in Silver City in October. "I think it will be a great place to get more knowledge."
Browne said he spent the preceding Monday and Tuesday at the Clean Energy Summit put on by Sen. Martin Heinrich. "It was very well done and very practical. It presented what concrete steps local governments can take. I attended a workshop on electric vehicles and one on solar energy production. I came away inspired that Grant County can continue to move to more renewable energy. I've been following the PACE (property assessed clean energy) program and would like to give a report at the next meeting."
Billings asked to confirm the dates of the next meetings as Aug. 20 and 22 and Sept. 10 and 12.
Browne said he would miss the first September meeting, as he will be backpacking with Aldo Leopold Charter School students.
Edwards said she attended the outdoor recreation conference last year in Las Cruces. "It was inspiring, and I learned a lot. I came back excited about the possibilities for this community. I encourage everyone to attend. It will take place on Oct. 3, 4 and 5. The Pedalista Bicycle Festival will take place on Oct. 5. The focus of the festival this year is on things that have already been done to make walking and cycling safer. This is the 20th anniversary of the town's purchase of Boston Hill. The trails are getting much better."
The meeting adjourned.
The next meeting scheduled is the Aug. 20 work session and the Aug. 22 regular session.