[Editor's Note: This article is the first of a series of articles on the legislative forum in preparation for the upcoming legislative session. This author was unable to get into the Zoom meeting, so she missed the welcome, introductions and legislator remarks, the first presentation and some of the second while she drove to the actual session. District 28 State Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill, District 38 Rep. Rebecca Dow and District 29 Rep. Luis Terrazas attended the event in person. Most presentations took place in person.]

By Mary Alice Murphy

The first presentation on the all-day schedule for the annual Prospectors Legislative Communication Forum on Dec. 2, 2021, came from Grant County representatives, County Manager Tim Zamora and Planning and Community Development Director Priscilla Shoup.

Zamora said the first priority on the county's top five capital outlay requests for 2022 is $750,000 for Bataan Memorial Park improvements. He noted that the park is a hub for outdoor recreation and activities, as well as giving veterans recognition.

No. 2 requests $5 million for a vocational school, because Grant County is in critical needs of skilled trade labor. It will serve the residents and youths seeking tradecraft training. It is a coordinated effort between the county, Western New Mexico University and local industry leaders. The county owns land near the village of Santa Clara that has been proposed as a location for the school.

The No. 3 request is for $340,000 to provide fleet replacement for the
Sheriff's Department. More than half the current fleet has 91,000-180,000 miles on the vehicles. Such vehicle problems with maintenance endanger public safety. The funding will facilitate implementation of a county-wide vehicle replacement plan.

The county requests in No. 4 an amount of $200,000 for a Grant County Parks and Recreation Comprehensive plan to allow the setting of priorities and goals for each community in the county. The plan will incorporate existing and future parks.

The last in the top five capital outlay priorities is $1 million for Detention Center behavioral health improvements to help stabilize individuals in the detention center during crisis situations and provide help to reduce recidivism.

Silver City Town Manager Alex Brown represented the town of Silver City. He said the town is waiting for an appraisal on a property and is asking for $4.5 million from the Legislature for a recreation center that would be open to everyone in the community. "We will borrow another $4 million, and Freeport-McMoran has committed to providing some funding."

Brown said the town had completed the most recent phase of the Ridge Road project. The Little Walnut Road project is underway and so is a water project. He said they are seeking funding for the Gough Park and City Hall project. "We will start with a remodel of the bank building for city hall. We also plan a revamp of the trail system, so we're looking for $1 million for that. We are also requesting $1 million for improvements to Little Walnut Road, which will take $8 million. We hope to be ready to go by the end of 2022."

He noted the town already owns half the bank building and will try to consolidate into one city hall.

Terrazas asked how putting the city hall away from downtown would affect the downtown area. Brown said the decision has plusses and minuses. "A lot of seniors come in to pay their bills and it's hard for them to find parking places downtown. We plan to redo the bank building for better accessibility. We will be working to make sure that the buildings downtown that we vacate will be occupied."

Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments Executive Director Priscilla Lucero, who spoke on various requests by different agencies said the town has already put in a capital request for Memory Lane Cemetery.

Browne said the request is to fix the drainage at the cemetery. "Maintenance used weed killer, so now there is no vegetations to slow down the water. We need to put in curb and gutter to stop the rutting. It is a $200,000 project. If we get $100,000 we can finish it."

Hemphill asked what the next phase, the third phase of Ridge Road, is.

Brown said from Bob White to the city limits. "It will cost about $1.2 million. We have $1.08 million from Colonias and we need about $200,000 to include a reserve. "If we don't use it on Ridge Road, we can move the funding to Little Walnut. We plan to continue the rest of Ridge Road to the city limits to match what we've already done. It will be multi-modal. We also want to connect the Continental Divide Trail to Penny Park and Gough Park, including the Waterworks building."

City of Bayard Clerk/Treasurer Kristina Ortiz made requests to purchase a fire/rescue unit, funding for improvements to Poplar and N. Railroad streets, regular wastewater improvements and sewer collection, as well as water system improvements.

Dow asked if Ortiz is working with the Council of Governments.

Ortiz said she goes through all the funding sources for projects. "We're trying to stay away from loans, because the city can't afford them. We have a dewatering system in progress, and we have the influent transmission line funded. We are waiting for the final geotech information so we can advertise for construction. We have severe corrosion in our wastewater system and the equipment components are no longer available, so we have to upgrade. We're start advertising for electrical costs. We are looking at USDA funding and we submitted to special appropriations. The Poplar and Railroad crossings are really bad. For our municipal streets we are asking for planning and design funding, because we can't afford to pay for them otherwise."

Terrazas noted that there should be federal funds for railroad crossings. Ortiz said the problem is the railway is not used but is falling apart.

For Hurley, Mayor Pro Tem Richard Maynes listed the town's top five requests. They include water system improvements which are the town's top priority to make the town independent in having its own water system and not relying on the mines for water. "We want to make improvements to the Chino building so we can turn it into the City Hall. We right now have 16 people in a 1,600 square-foot building, so we need more room. We are in the planning stages for the Chino building to determine how to refurbish it. We also need a public safety building."

Hemphill asked how many square feet of space the Chino building has. Maynes replied approximately 3,000-4,000 square feet.

Lucero said the town has received environmental funding for the phase 1 and phase 2 assessments. "The town is hoping to use ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding to do the cleanup."

Maynes said the request for $400,000 for the community pool is to resurface the floor of the pool and "we need heat panels to heat the water."

Terrazas said he knows the town needs a larger city hall. "If the power was stopped to the Chino building, you will need to upgrade the system to start it up again."

Lucero said currently at the federal level, there is a proposed earmark of $200,000 for updating the preliminary engineering report for the regional water plan, which would include Hurley.

For the village of Santa Clara, Mayor Richard Bauch and Clerk/Treasurer Sheila Hudman presented.

"We are continuing the construction of the Copper Trails along the highway," Hudman reported. "We have applied for funding through the governor's office and through tourism to connect the trail to Santa Clara. We got $8 million to replace the aging bridge to get to downtown. Two acres are next to Central Elementary that we want to use for sports. It has a baseball diamond and a basketball court, and we want to develop an area for BMX cycling. We also need heating for the Fort Bayard Theater, as well as some drainage improvements, because the basement gets water in it. For economic development, we want to bring in a modular building for a business. And we need water improvements for Twin Sisters Creek."

Hemphill thanked Hudman for her work and accessibility.

Dow said the legislators would like a private meeting with Bauch and Hudman to go over all the requests in more details. "We would like to know more about the potential annexation of Fort Bayard by Santa Clara and information on the possible Forest Service lease of buildings at Fort Bayard."

Terrazas echoed the need for a meeting. "Is $200,000 for water heating for heat in the theater? Could you use forced air heat instead?"

Hudman said the biggest issue with the theater is drainage. "We would have to do those repairs before putting in a boiler. Gas is run to the building outside, but there are no lines inside the building. We also need an alarm system for the theater. We have to deal with the Historic Preservation Division on outside changes, but not on the inside. The school is open to conversation on the sports changes. It would be a pump track, which is like BMX."

The next article will get into other local government agencies, that are not municipalities or the county.

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