[Editor's Note: This is part 2 of a multi-part series of articles on the Grant County Commission's work session and regular meeting May 11 and May 13.]

By Mary Alice Murphy

After a presentation and public input at the May 11, 2021 work session on concerns about expansion of the Freeport-McMoRan Tyrone Mine, which can be read at https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/64924-grant-county-commission-hears-concerns-at-work-session-on-mine-expansion-051121, commissioners heard county reports.

Road Department Foreman Joe Grijalva said the department is doing patching to prepare for chip sealing. "We have blades running, but without precipitation, it's hard to get much done, so we're also trimming trees."

District 1 Commissioner and Chair Chris Ponce said he appreciated Grijalva for looking at concerns from residents.

The next to speak was retiring Planning and Community Development Department Director Michael "Mischa" Larish. He said Priscilla Shoup, who is replacing him in the position, had begun the job the previous day. "She's busy learning information from me."

He said because one owner on Bandoni Drive was a "holdout" on the easement, Bohannon Huston is working on a redesign. Larisch said it was for an easement 10 feet wide and 145 feet long. Bohannon Huston feels like it can shift a little bit.

He noted that a new advertisement for bids for Bataan Memorial Park improvements had gone out the previous day, and May 28 would be the bid opening. "I feel good about the geotech and utilities information. It should help make things clearer for contractors."

Larisch addressed the outdoor training and recreation planning. "The trail and vehicle counters are out. We've notified the city and the forest service because several are on the forest. We have them at places such as Gomez Peak, Jacks Peak, off Little Walnut on the CDT, Dragonfly trailhead and the Big Tree trailhead. A vehicle counter is past the Hwy 35 turnoff, because we figure they're going out to recreate out there somewhere. We have two on Boston Hill. Those gray boxes you see, they're just counters gathering data. We are looking later for counters for Signal Peak and Little Cherry Creek. As soon as the website is fully functional, we'll notify the public."

District 3 Commissioner Alicia Edwards asked how the trackers will differentiate between hikers and bikers. Larisch replied that the trackers are simply tracking activity. "Maybe we'll get volunteers to document the types of recreation. At night, the activity is likely deer."

Edwards said when the project is ready to have monitoring, "there would likely be plenty of volunteers."

She said she thought it would be important to differentiate between hikers and cyclists.

Larisch said the information would be on the website.

District 5 Commissioner Harry Browne said he had a follow up on Bandoni. "I did see the letter from the owner. Did Bohannon Huston look at the different approaches she suggested?"

Larisch said Bohannon Huston had drainage engineers on the project. "What I read in her letter was she thought everything was wrong."

Browne noted that when he worked near the New Mexico border, one engineer wanted to put drainage down the middle of a road, but he was convinced otherwise. "What about the old jail?"

Larisch said 140-ish surveys came in. "I would be glad to share the data. Most was geared around a judicial complex. That's what I got out of the information. It's great information for the design stage."

Ponce said he had heard from Don Turner that he wants something to be done at the Bataan Memorial for the 80th anniversary of the Bataan Death March. "(District 4) Commissioner (Billy) Billings had a great idea."

County Manager Charlene Webb said that Turner would be on the May 25th work session with a presentation.

Ponce noted that Sen. Siah Hemphill has gotten some money for the project.

"I went out there last week with Mr. Turner," Billings said. "He would like a meeting with us before May 25, so they know how to work out those who will benefit from the renovation of the memorial. I look forward to the meeting."

General Services Director Randy Villa said projects at the airport are on hold until fire season is over. "Enplanements are up. In March we had 182 and in April, 252. That includes our flights to Phoenix as well as Albuquerque. Fuel prices are going up. We did have a small plane crash on the northeast side of the runway, which tore up some fence. It was a small, one-engine aircraft that ran out of fuel. It tore up the plane. Thankfully, the pilot had only minor injuries. He will pay for the fence."

Villa said the terminal is open and as is usual toward the end of May, the fire base is getting things into place. "Silver City is under fire restrictions. Grant County is not yet under restrictions. We usually work with the State Forestry and Forest Service to go into restrictions at the same time."

On the maintenance department, Villa said they had brought on a new employee. "We are sanitizing the building twice a day to keep employees and the public safe. We are working on landscaping at our facilities. You can still get to the Veterans Memorial, but later we will be closing it when construction starts. The park is not open but the parking lot is. Corre Caminos is running buses. Masks are required on the buses at least through Sept. 21, 2021. Because Corre Caminos runs on a federal calendar year, they have to follow federal rules, even if the state says no masks are required. We're at 50 percent maximum capacity and not above. Right now, Corre Cantinas is running from 2-11 p.m. When the bars and restaurants are able to stay open later, we will expand the hours. The volunteer fire departments are patrolling on the weekends, hoping to catch fires early. We had a livestock trailer burn due to some welding, but Tyrone VFD kept it from spreading."

Browne asked about the 50 percent capacity. "Has that restriction caused people to be turned away?"

"I don't think so," Villa replied. "I think we're able to handle everyone who wants to ride. We are short of drivers, but we're still running the routes and getting people where they're wanting to go. Unless a person has a doctor's excuse, they do require masks on the buses, and if a person doesn't have one, the driver can give them one."

Webb in her report said the county will be receiving the RISE (Reach, Intervene, Support and Engage) funding again for the Detention Center for the project for a two-year contract at that funding level. "So, we are looking at what programming at the Detention Center looks like, and we're in budget negotiations to further that program. The Grant County Workforce and Economic Development Alliance has advertised for an economic development director, and we have received 13 candidates. Interviews will be held the latter part of this month. I emailed you yesterday, the U.S. Treasury released the guidance on the American Rescue Plan, so we'll have to take a strong look at that. The Detention Center administrator, the attorney and I will be attending a training on Covid litigation in Las Cruces next week. New Mexico Counties is trying to be proactive on what that might look like in the future."

Ponce requested that discussion on the American Rescue Plan be put on the May 25 work session agenda.

The next article will cover the GRMC monthly report and the elected officials reports at the regular meeting. It is anticipated that the final article will cover the review of the regular meeting agenda at the work session, as well as the decisions made in the regular meeting.