[Editor's Note: This is part 6 of a series of articles on the Grant County Commission meetings July 6 and 8, 2021.]

By Mary Alice Murphy

After two presentations and county reports at the work session on Tuesday, July 6, 2021, which can be read at https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/66082-grant-county-commission-hears-a-presentation-on-bataan-memorial-design-070621, https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/66108-grant-county-commissioners-hear-proposal-for-narcotic-canine-detection-070621-part-2, https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/66134-grant-county-commission-hears-county-reports-at-work-session-070621-and-regular-meeting-070821-part-3, https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/66135-grant-county-commission-hears-grmc-monthly-update-at-regular-meeting-070821-part-4 and https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/66173-grant-county-commission-reviews-and-takes-action-on-the-bataan-memorial-at-meetings-070621-and-070821-part-5 , the regular meeting agenda was reviewed.

The first item to be reviewed at the work session was the monthly expenditure report from June 4-June 30, 2021, by Financial Officer Linda Vasquez. Total expenditures were $3,159,129.30, including payroll for two pay periods totaling $437,685.43. She then read the list of expenditures above $10,000. They are listed in the PDF below.

The financial report was approved at the regular meeting.

District 3 Commissioner Alicia Edwards clarified that the Center for Health Innovations item was simply a passthrough for the county as fiscal agent. "But what is Snow Engineering?"

County Manager Charlene Webb confirmed that it was the entity that is working on the outdoor recreation plan, dba SE Group.

Edwards asked what the county is getting from SkyWest Media for $1,500 a month for hosting. Webb said they host the website and make all the major upgrades, which includes creating a new page or changing the format. Otherwise, Administrative Assistant Kevin Hubbs does all the everyday stuff.

District 2 Commissioner Javier "Harvey" Salas questioned the one for the convention center (the Grant County Veterans Memorial Business and Conference Center). "That's the Chamber of Commerce? What do we get for that?"

Webb said that is the management fees. "They do the booking of events; they are responsible for advertising the facility, for bringing in groups; they do the major janitorial duties; basically, they are the property management group."

She noted that last month, the commission had approved the request for proposal from the chamber to continue the contract. "They are running the facility on our behalf."

Salas asked if the county maintenance department works there. Webb said, yes, if it's major work, such as HVAC, patching walls when tables or chairs get banged into them; if the floors need stripped, if carpets need cleaning, we either contract out or do it ourselves, but all of it comes out of the conference center fund."

Salas asked if the county had ever had an employee do that.

Webb said when the facility was completed, the commission looked at the situation and whether it was feasible to have an employee do it. "We looked at similar facilities across the state and it appeared to us that the more successful model was to contract it out, rather than trying to have one person run the whole facility. It didn't seem feasible cost-wise, nor for one person, what if they go on vacation, what if there are multiple events going on at the same time. We have learned with the chamber in there, and their outreach as the chamber, they have been successful in bringing in conferences, obviously not last year, but having outreach, they basically do the marketing for the facility."

Salas said: "But they still do the chamber business there, right?"

"Yes, they do," Webb said.

Salas said they needed to look at the efficacy of having someone do that for $100,000.

Edwards said: "As someone who was in on the discussions the first time around. We talked about it up one side and down the other. And this seemed the best option."

Salas said it just seems to him that they are conducting their own business and "their business and ours go hand in hand, but we're paying them for it. I don't know. It just seems $100,000, and I don't see a lot of a conferences going through there, even with COVID."

Edwards said it might be helpful to have a report from Steve (Chavira, Silver City-Grant County Chamber of Commerce executive director) about what goes on at the facility. "They run a ton of stuff through there. The Forest Service uses it a lot. There's a lot of activity there."

Webb said she and Randy Villa would be meeting with Steve later that week. "And we will make it clear what the expectations of the commission are. We will ask him to be on the August agenda to give you a full overview of what events they host, what conferences they are bringing in. From the staff point-of-view, I would say that the relationship has worked out very well for the county."

Salas asked how much it cost to fix up the facility. Edwards said it was about $1.8 million, [Editor's Note: and much of that came from a couple of EDA grants].

Under new business, the first item was the solid waste account liens. At the work session, there were 54 liens about to be put on properties. By the regular meeting, one had come in and paid up the delinquent solid waste account, so the number of liens went down to 53, which were approved at the regular meeting.

The following item on the Bataan Memorial was covered in https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/66173-grant-county-commission-reviews-and-takes-action-on-the-bataan-memorial-at-meetings-070621-and-070821-part-5.

The next item addressed the reappointment of three members to the Road Abandonment Committee. Webb recommended the reappointment of Ty Bays, Debbie Rogers and Lauren Frost to the committee, as they are willing to serve. Webb said the committee is only called on an as-needed basis. The reappointment of the three was approved at the regular meeting.

Under agreements, the first item was approval of the annual animal control services with the High Desert Humane Society in the amount of $36,600.

District 1 Commissioner and Chair Chris Ponce, at the work session, asked how it was working out with the Sheriff's Department and Emergency Management deal with animal issues.

"I'm not receiving any complaints," Webb said. "It seems to be working well."

The agreement was approved at the regular meeting.

The next item was to approve an agreement on the junior bill appropriation from the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration for a hiking and trails project in the amount of $65,000 for trails at Bataan Park.

Commissioners approved it at the regular meeting.

Another junior bill appropriation agreement with the NM DFA goes toward the construction of the veteran's memorial at Bataan Park, in the amount of $50,000. It too was approved by commissioners.

On a memorandum of agreement between Grant County and the town of Hurley for chip seal street projects in Hurley, Webb said the road department has done chip sealing for Hurley, Santa Clara and Bayard in past years. "They pay for the materials, and we provide the equipment and labor. Randy, Joe (Grijalva, interim road superintendent) and I met with Mayor (Ed) Stevens, and he seemed pleased."

Commissioners approved the MOU at the regular meeting.

Next on the agenda was the SunZia Transmission Line No. 1community benefits agreement to pay the county $20,000 per linear mile. Webb, at the work session, said John Strand had presented the proposal to the county at the June meeting. "I wish every developer was as community-oriented as SunZia. I recommend you approve it at the regular meeting. It's definitely a win-win for everyone."

At the regular meeting, Strand confirmed that the one-time payment was $20,000 per linear mile for the first line and hopefully when the second line is developed, it would bring a new agreement. "We ask that the county give us a report on how the money is used. The schools in some cases benefit from the taxes paid on the project. This project covers a bit over 20 miles in Grant County. SunZia will also be paying into the State Lands Trust Fund on the state miles it crosses. The line will transmit 500 kVA (kilo-volt-ampere). The schools do benefit from the state trust lands fund."

Salas asked if the county could tap into the line. [Editor's Note: this question was asked when Strand gave his presentation to the county on June 22, 2021, which can be read at https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/65932-grant-county-commission-hears-update-on-sunzia-transmission-line-at-work-session-062221-part-3 . Salas was not present. Shouldn't he review what he missed?]

Strand had explained that the electricity has already been purchased by Pattern Energy and, although a large substation is located in Deming and SunZia owns property for another substation in Luna County, as well as land in Hidalgo County for a substation near another substation, it will not likely be tapped into by local entities. "I hope you got the map that I sent to each of you yesterday. This line will start in north central New Mexico just above Corona. It comes down to Socorro area and will follow the El Paso Electric line that comes in from St. John's Arizona. It will come through Deming and meet the El Paso line that goes into Springerville, Ariz, then will branch off to north of Willcox, Ariz., and to Pinal Central, which is just south of Casa Grande, Ariz. In Grant County, it is just north of Separ."

Edwards clarified that the amount paid in the community benefit agreement to Grant County would be $400,601 and the agreement lays out how the funding will be paid out. "And I would like to give you our thanks for doing this program," she said to Strand.

Commissioners approved the community benefit agreement at the regular meeting.

The next article will address the rest of the agenda review and actions taken.

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