[Editor's Note: This is part 3 of the work session and includes some reports from the regular meeting of the Grant County Board of Commissioners.]

By Mary Alice Murphy

The first county report at the work session came from Jason Lockett, facility maintenance and grounds superintendent, reporting for general services, as General Services Director Randy Villa is in learning mode after being chosen to serve as interim county manager.

Lockett said he was just "getting my feet wet," but he reported that Corre Caminos is running well. He noted interviews to replace the DWI coordinator would begin the next day (Wednesday, July 7). He said fuel sales are down at the airport since fewer fires are occurring, due to the rain the forest has received. "We had a small crash at the airport when a private plane's landing gear failed. I thank everyone for their fast response, from Dispatch all the way to those who were out there. There were no injuries and no damage to Grant County facilities. He had just landed, and everything fell out from under him, so he skidded to a stop. As far as maintenance, we're starting into weed season from Bataan Park to the Detention Center. We had some problems with the air-conditioning units at the jail. We're trying to get them up and running again. We have a few minor leaks, due to the heavy rain. Most are not coming from the roofs but through the duct work from the HVAC units. At the Mimbres and Gila Senior centers, we are 99 percent complete with equipment changeouts to finish out by June 30 the grant funding we received. We are going to take some of the furniture and repurpose it at Bataan and replace the centers' furniture with some nicer-looking things."

District 2 Commissioner Javier "Harvey" Salas asked, when construction starts at Bataan Park, whether it would be open or closed.

Lockett said he would know more after the discussion with the contractor, "but I expect the whole park will be shut down. The meeting is tomorrow."

District 1 Commissioner and Chair Chris Ponce said the county would need to advertise that the park would be shut down. Lockett said he plans to put signs out at the park. 

Ponce said some newspaper articles were needed so that the public understands the construction is to get the park back into better shape with improved safety.

Salas asked if the parks in North Hurley receive regular maintenance. Lockett confirmed that they on regular rotation for maintenance.

The next report came from Ted Martinez, accounting specialist for solid waste payments and billing. He said that liens would be issued to 54 solid waste accounts unpaid for more than 1½ years, building the debt up to more than $100. 

County Manager Charlene Webb noted that "Ted does a lot to contact those in arrears before he puts the liens on the properties."

Planning and Community Development Director Priscilla Shoup said the pre-bid meeting for Bandoni Road drainage improvements is set for July 8, with July 16, the date set to open bids. "We expect the project to be done by the end of the year. We also estimate the time for the ADA improvements at Bataan Park to take about 90 days once we get it going. The 60 percent design work on Little Walnut should be complete by September, and the design work on Ridge Road complete by August."

She said for the outdoor recreation master plan, trail monitors had been placed at several Tier 2 locations, including Turkey Creek, one near Saddle Rock, one at Woodhaul Wagon Trail at Fort Bayard and two at Signal Peak trailheads for the Continental Divide and one at the Emory Pass Crest Trail. "We also have two vehicle counters, one at Little Walnut Creek Road and one at the entrance to Signal Peak. The website should launch this week, with links in English and Spanish. The links will be on the county website and Facebook page. June 28, we received the award letters for the two colonias projects – the Old Arenas Valley Road design and the North Hurley Road, phase 3 design. I'll be working with Stantec to get these items for readiness to proceed."

District 3 Commissioner Alicia Edwards asked for the trails flyer so she could send it to an extensive list she has.

Salas asked when the work would begin on North Hurley Road, phase 3.

Shoup said because the county had just received the award, she would be working toward getting the readiness to proceed for preliminary design by October. 

Webb said she didn't have much of a report. "My time has been spent with Randy (Villa) dragging him to many meetings and trying to bring him up to speed on the many things that we are working on. Priscilla has covered all the projects that are moving."

County reports at the regular meeting came from elected officials. 

Treasurer Patrick Cohn presented the tax schedule maintenance report. The collections for 2020 stood at 91.87 percent. "This year we collected $237,293.72 in June 2021, bringing our total collection percentage to 95.47. I was aiming for 96 percent."

Total distributions for June 2021 were $348,000, with all entities having reported. "We will post the tax schedule and the distribution reports on the county website under the Treasurer's tab. Please have patience as this is a new process. We'll get it up as soon as we can."

Cohn said the Advisory Investment Committee had met the day before. "Our original face value of CDs (certificates of deposit) and munis (municipal bonds) was $6.2 million. Our total market principal is $8.3 million, with $20,000 accrued interest. The county's money market account face value is $1.9 million in fixed income funds. The projected increase in accrued interest for the next 12 months is $104,000. The average coupon rate is 1.556 interest, which is higher than what current rates are. The weighted maturity is 2 years on the portfolio. This is intended for short-term laddered maturity for access to cash or to reinvest to continue to produce cash flow. The portfolio is invested 98.1 percent in FDIC-insured CDs and 1.9 percent in munis."

He noted that although he would prefer to invest locally, "but not right now as the economy is recovering. I think the county would be taking an interest risk, because local rates are low. I want to wait until we see where interest rates end up locally. With unemployment and inflation, the Federal Reserve has kept interest rates low. I will read the Fed minutes to see where things are headed. We continue to work to collect delinquent taxes. Less than a quarter of the delinquent letters were returned, but we are still looking for corrected addresses. The delinquent taxes list has been submitted to the state."

District 2 Commissioner Javier "Harvey" Salas asked if the fixed income funds are the money market funds, so cash is readily available.

"Yes," Cohn said. "What I normally do with the money market is make sure we're not running short in the bank account, so I sweep it into the General Fund."

Salas asked if the county has not taken anything from the investments to supplement the county budget, "right?"

"No, we haven't," Cohn replied. "I will be working with the county manager's office on the coupon cash flow and communicating with Randy Villa (interim county manager) and (Financial Officer) Linda Vasquez on the future cash flow for bond expenditures and projects."

Salas asked was the return is.

Cohn said because rates are so low now, "I just invest it in CDs so that we can have more of a coupon cash flow investment. The CDs are usually 12 or 24 months to maturity, with 36-months, depending on the rate. We have $1.9 million in the money market." He noted that he had just invested $2.2 million in CDs.

Salas asked if there were a penalty if the county needed the money. 

"That's where the worst to maturity is," Cohn said. "They don't recommend we do that, because the county would lose the accrued interest. That's why we have the coupon cash flow coming in when we need it."

Salas asked what coupon cash flow is.

Cohn explained it was the accumulated interest on the CDs, which is automatically accrued to the money market account.

The next report was from Undersheriff Capt. Jess Watkins giving the department report. He said he didn't have the usual statistics, because the person who creates the report is on vacation. "I can tell you our call volume is on the rise, since we opened up more. We have four new hires, who graduated from Western New Mexico University's Police Academy, have completed their in-house orientation and have been assigned to training officers to start their training process. They are all doing very well. As of next week, we have our latest crisis intervention person going to basic crisis intervention training. He's the third for the group to start working together. We have, also next week, our two patrol lieutenants attending a professional-standards training for internal investigations. We also have four deputies going to basic criminal investigation school, learning how to be a detective for future purposes. In August, we will have our biannual required annual training, not only for our officers but for other departments that wish to attend. In September, the Silver City Police Department will be hosting a Desert Snow training here in Silver City, and there will be 40 slots available. They have a grant to pay for all of it."

District 1 Commissioner and Chair Chris Ponce asked Watkins to explain the Desert Snow program to the public. 

"Sure," Watkins said. "It's a highway interdiction program where they teach you how to do drug interdiction for traffic stops and to recognize vehicles that are the most commonly used to smuggle drugs. They learn how to disassemble the vehicles to find the most common hiding spots. It gives you hands on for what to look for on the street and what might make you believe there's a load of dope and how to find it."

The next article will address the monthly update from Gila Regional Medical Center, which was given at the regular meeting.

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