[Editor's Note: This is part 4 and the final of a multi-series of articles on the Grant County Commission work session on April 12, 2022 and the regular meeting on April 14, 2022.]

By Mary Alice Murphy

At the work session, during the review of the regular meeting agenda, Procurement Officer Randy Hernandez presented the expenditures report for the period from March 4, 2022, ending April 7, 2022. Total expenditures were $3,194,122.32, including two payroll periods, which totaled $438,500.14.

Extraordinary expenses above $10,000 are listed in the PDF below.

In new business, commissioners addressed the preliminary petition from Freeport-McMoRan to move the Tyrone Thompson Road. [Editor's Note: The presentation can be read in part 1 of this series. The link for it is at the bottom of this article.]

At the regular meeting, District 5 Commissioner Harry Browne noted that before the final decision is made, a public hearing will take place for nearby residents to comment. Commissioners approved the preliminary petition.

The next item addressed the Tu Casa Advisory Board Charter. District 3 Commissioner Alicia Edwards, who serves on the board, said the changes to the charter included an item naming the Grant County Detention Administrator as a board member, without naming a specific person. Commissioners approved the change.

As a result of the change in the charter, Detention Center Administrator Joseph Andazola was named to the board in the next agenda item.

Following that Edwards and Robert W. Garrett, M.D. were reappointed to the board.

Commissioners appointed two members to the DWI Planning Council—Valerie Kling and Sarita Reyes. Reyes replaced the former JPPO (juvenile probation and parole office) representative.

Edwards said the group was trying to increase the numbers on the board back up to a maximum of 13.

Under agreements, the first item addressed a memorandum of understanding between the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) and the county of Grant to support an "innovative cross-system collaboration for individuals with mental illnesses of co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders who come into contact with the justice system," according to the agenda description.

Planning and Community Development Director Priscilla Shoup said the MOU would unlock $100,000 for crisis interventions training and volunteer fire department training with a licensed clinical social worker.

County Manager Tim Zamora said referrals will go to providers who are already in the county.

Commissioners approved the MOU.

The next agreement was an intergovernmental agreement with the New Mexico Public Education Department. County Human Resources Specialist Renae Calloway said the agreement would provide funding for high school students to participate in internships with governmental agencies, like the county, during the summer. "Last year, we had 20 interns. I was the coordinator. We are looking at hiring a coordinator this year." She said she hoped the agreement would be approved because the county could not go looking for interns until the signed agreement was received from the state. She named the departments that would participate this year. They included the IT, DWI and Road departments among others. She also noted the coordinator would work 20 hours a week at $25 an hour and the interns would work 20 hours a week at $12 an hour.

At the regular meeting Administrative Assistant Kevin Hubbs said the PED notified the county that the agreement would not be completed until the following week. He recommended the commissioners allow the county manager to sign the agreement.

Zamora said if the agreement was not fully funded, they would cut back the number of positions to where the funding would cover it, so as not to encumber the county for the extra payments.

Hubbs said the county would get the application process out to all the local schools.

Commissioners approved the county manager signing the agreement.

Under resolutions, the first one declared the eligibility and intent of Grant County to submit an application for Ridge Road construction Phase 1 to the New Mexico Department of Transportation call for projects letter dated Jan. 26, 2022. Shoup said the funding would include 95 percent paid for by the state and a 5 percent match by the county. Phase 1 extends from Lance Drive to Bonita, which is about a mile. She said the plan in the future is to continue to the Detention Center.

District 1 Commissioner and Chair Chris Ponce asked about A Street in Hurley.

Shoup said the design is in its finishing stages. Once it is completed the county will go for construction funding. Commissioners approved the application at the regular meeting.

Hernandez presented the budget adjustment requests and said they were mostly for grants the county had received and involved money coming into the county and out to the departments as needed.

Commissioners approved them at the regular meeting.

Under bids and requests for proposal, Hernandez said the county received two bids for the Truck Bypass Road and culvert replacement. "The low bidder was $4 million from Deming Excavation. It is funded by the NM DOT, but I recommend we reject it, because there is a large discrepancy between the engineering estimate and the bid. I recommend we look at rebidding the project. I had some conversations with the engineer, and he said he was heavy on the estimate, so he couldn't give us a reason why the huge discrepancy. We will go back to the original intent. We had the estimate in December, and the NMDOT came out with its funding in late January."

At the regular meeting, the commissioners approved rejecting the bid.

A county request for proposal for a contractor to provide Hurley Pit services was discussed. Hernandez said the pit is a lease between the county and state land services. "We received two proposals, one from Fowler Brothers Inc. and the other from Deming Sand and Gravel. I recommend Fowler Brothers Inc., with possible renewals up to five years. We are looking at a five-year contract."

Commissioners approved the contract with Fowler Brothers Inc., at the regular meeting.

The Commission recessed and convened, at the regular meeting as the Grant County Health Care Claims Board, and approved claims in the amount of $3,513.36.

After reconvening as the Grant County Board of Commissioners at the work session, Edwards asked when the Vitalcore contract was up for renewal.

Hernandez said the draft RFP is in review and then it will be released.

During commissioner reports, District 2 Commissioner Javier "Harvey" Salas asked about using ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding for emergency centers and at the Bataan Memorial Park pavilion.

Zamora said the projects at Bataan would include heating and cooling, as well as bathrooms with showers and kitchen improvements, to be able to use the pavilion as an emergency center. "We also plan to use ARPA funding at the Cliff Fairgrounds to upgrade the electrical system, in case we need an emergency place for animals."

Ponce noted for showers, the county might need to expand the pavilion.

Salas asked if the county plans to use ICIP (infrastructure capital improvement plan) and ARPA funding to make the changes.

"I think we can use ARPA funding at the pavilion and at the fairgrounds for them to be ready as emergency centers," Zamora said.

Browne and Edwards had no commissioner reports at the time.

Ponce said the commissioners need to schedule a meeting at the conference center to discuss the budget. He also commented on Bataan Memorial Park, which was full of folks the previous weekend for the Bataan Memorial Rededication on the 80th anniversary of the Bataan Death March. "I think people were expecting more at the park. We need to look at our plans on how often to open the park and to close it to prevent vandalism. We need ideas."

Browne asked if the county had clarified whether junior money for a maintenance person at Bataan has been received.

Zamora said he would verify, but he did not think it would be recurring to pay for a maintenance person.

Edwards said the park ties in well with the outdoor recreation plan and the trails at Fort Bayard.

Zamora said he met with the grant writing company Incite and told them it would be helpful for them to be involved in the planning, so that funding could be determined as part of the plans.

At the regular meeting, Billings gave a "big thanks to county staff. We had a meeting with residents of Gila and Cliff on the community center. Manager Zamora, General Services Director Randy Villa, Maintenance Supervisor Jason Locket and Priscilla Shoup came out and listened to 45-50 residents wanting to talk about the community center. Several of them will meet with Priscilla. It's really important to the community out there. I thank Tim for following up, and I thank the staff for all they do. There's really a good ethic here at the county. People are taking interest in their work in the county and their vision of service to community."

Salas thanked everyone involved in the previous weekend's event at Bataan. "It was so great to hear the compliments to the county. What we did ultimately at Bataan was great. I think it will be a focal point for events, as part of our strategy."

Browne echoed Salas' comments. "As I became a commissioner, I didn't have a clue as to the value of Bataan Memorial Park. I was skeptical. But more than 500 people came out and showed pride in their community and in the park. I was also skeptical about the conference center. I didn't think it would pay off, but it has and will."

Edwards said: "It's interesting that we're all thinking the same thing. We may have different ideas and opinions, but we're aligned on what's important for the community. I agree on Bataan. And another event worth considering is the Tommy Knocker endurance bicycle race that took place at Fort Bayard. I volunteered and timed the rides of 360 people who signed up. Last time, we had 60. It's an intense event, but it was so great to see all these people from Washington, Oregon, Texas, Arizona and Colorado, and from New Mexico, too. The bike shops did a tremendous amount of work. All the riders brought family and friends. The memorial rededication and this sporting event will help bring together diverse factions of the county."

She said she had dinner with the Early Childhood Department Secretary, Elizabeth Groginsky. "We went to a listening event and the recent ribbon cutting at the El Grito del Bosque Childcare Center. I want to give a shout out to Terry Anderson, who was insistent that the secretary come to Grant County. Some of the things I learned were eye-opening. I've also been having conversations with Autumn Bruton of Amplified Therapy. She has issues with state payments. She is short speech pathologists. There is irrefutable evidence that early intervention and education back to 3 years and 3½ years impacts a child's trajectory in life. We need to figure out how to address the needs. We have to focus our priorities. We have a rainy-day fund, the Permanent Fund, at the state level. It has $20 billion in it. It's a rainy day. We need to take $10 billion out to address early childhood issues. We need to make changes in our priorities."

Browne commented on the upcoming Tour of the Gila, which took place April 27-May 1. He said he wanted to make sure that drivers share the roads with the bicyclists. "Be patient and give them a wide berth. Give them room. The Tour brings a lot of economic injection to the county. It brings people here and they see what Grant County has to offer."

Salas echoed Edwards on the early childhood issue. "I don't want to wait until the Legislature meets. We have a good foundation. With the shortage of speech therapists, I don't know why the state has such stringent regulations. And we need to use Bataan and the conference center to draw other events."

Ponce said he knows Edwards is also an advocate of mental health services. "Some of the money needs to roll down to address behavioral health. I thank the commissioners for what we put into Bataan Park and the work on the trails. I want to thank all the veterans that went to the Bataan rededication. I also want to thank Valdamar De Herrera and his family for bringing him here. I would like to see a letter of appreciation go out from us. I thank the more than 80 committee members for helping put the event on. More than 240 people did the walk. And the biggest thank you is to the citizens, because everything we do is paid for with taxpayer money. Thank you to Freeport for all they contributed to the event. They responded quickly to any glitches that arose. They did an outstanding job. Thank you to Tim Zamora for leading the effort at Bataan, as well as those from the maintenance department and the road department who aided in all the work. Success doesn't happen without all of us coming together. When we come together, we can do great things."

The only other item was asking the commissioners to be available sometime between June 13-17, maybe June 14, to certify the primary election.

Deputy Clerk Connie Holguin said she would look into the commissioners approving the certification telephonically, since several will be at the New Mexico Counties conference.

Ponce suggested 8:30 June 13, if Billings and he could be there in person and the rest telephonically.

Hubbs pointed out that week was also the regularly scheduled work and regular sessions, so he suggested they be moved to June 21 and 23, with long agendas, because they would not hold the regular June 28 work session.

Edwards said the Gila Regional Medical Center Governing Board would meet on June 28 at 9 a.m., with the goal of no executive session, but she could not promise it.

This completes the County Commission meetings of April 12 and 14, 2022.

For the previous meetings, please visit https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/71768-grant-county-commission-heard-presentation-and-held-discussions-at-work-session-041222 ; https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/71847-grant-county-commission-heard-county-reports-at-work-session-041222-part-2 and https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/71883-grant-county-commission-addressed-regular-meeting-agenda-at-work-session-041222-part-3

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