[Editor's Note: The Grant County Commission work session on Sept. 6 and the regular meeting on Sept. 8, were both long meetings, so this series of articles will be numerous. Part 3 gets into county reports. The previous articles are linked at the bottom of this article.]

img 5646Detention Center Administrator Joseph Andazola, at right, congratulates Charlie Muñoz for his retirement after 15 years of service at the jail.Photo and article by Mary Alice Murphy

The first county report came from Detention Center Administrator Joseph Andazola. He said he has two new officers in training and two openings. "I want to congratulate Charlie Muñoz, who retired on Sept. 1, after 15 years of service to the Detention Center. He also served as a Marine before that."

Andazola said he was working with the Primary Care Association to get a health care position in the Detention Center. He also reported statistics to the commissioners. As of Aug. 31, the population of the jail stood at 87. The August daily population was 96, with the day of the meeting, 90 inmates. He said the RISE program had 25 participants, with 13 in the facility and 12 receiving services in the community. He said he had signed a contract with Guardian RFID and the jail had been assigned a project manager. "This contract will help our accreditation by keeping documents. We are working with the county procurement officer (Veronica Rodriguez) for a request for proposal for medical and food service. We've also met with the IT department and maintenance director for development of a long-term plan for computer equipment and the like. We need to determine how long computers last. We are continuing with updating policy and procedures, as well as the five-year plan, which we hope to complete in October. Lt. Rios will attend the New Mexico Counties Training for Trainers in Las Cruces."

District 1 Commissioner and Chair Chris Ponce said he would like to see the RISE report on a regular basis.

District 5 Commissioner Harry Browne asked if RISE is for 30 days or 90 days.

Andazola said sometimes the 30-day program can help, and "it is an alternative sentencing option for the 90-120 day program."

Planning Director Randy Hernandez reported the Arenas Valley Road design scoping is at 25 percent. On the Bald Knoll Road issue, property owners amended the request for consideration of abandonment of two miles, past the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, with a hearing to take place on Sept. 8.

He reported the grant writing consultant has proposed an in-person retreat with commissioners and delivery of a preliminary draft of the County Grants Plan in October 2022. The draft of the Lodgers' Tax Ordinance is completed and will be received with the committee and legal counsel prior to public hearings.

The Ridge Road design is 60 percent completed, with final design scheduled for Oct. 20, 2022. Ridge Road construction did not receive New Mexico Department of Transportation funding this year, but the county will seek funding through Colonias or NMDOT next year. The county received the Silver Acres preliminary engineering report on Aug. 23, 2022. "We will need to determine the preferred alternative for design and obtain cost estimates for construction. The redesign of the Truck Bypass Road construction is 80 percent complete. We will meet with the engineers and finalize the design before preparing for a re-bid. I was asked to be part of the Freeport-McMoRan Grant County Community Investment Committee. We will review, evaluate and determine community programs and projects to receive social investment from the Freeport Community Foundation. I am one of 11 community representatives."

He noted that future projects include Bataan Memorial Park sidewalks and ADA access, using $300,000 received in a Governor appropriation for veterans' memorials improvements. "We haven't heard back yet on our application to the Quality of Life grant, which would also benefit Bataan and the Gila Community Center/Park."

Hernandez recommended approval of the Department of Finance and Administration agreement for the $300,000 for Bataan Park; for a resolution amending the ICIP (infrastructure capital improvement plan); and for a resolution of the ICIP for the county-owned senior centers.

Browne asked to be part of the committee determining the Silver Acres alternative.

Hernandez also reported the Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments Executive Director Priscilla Lucero said the amount of applications for the Quality of Life grant had been overwhelming and the committee had not had enough time to review them by the end of August.

Ponce requested that the grant writing group retreat and the draft be held until after Charlene (Webb, returning county manager) is back (toward the end of October). "I think it is important that she and Randy Villa be there for the retreat. We haven't heard a report from the economic development group. I would ask that Director Steve Chavirra give us a report at the last work session this month."

District 3 Commissioner Alicia Edwards also asked for a report from the Silver City-Grant County Chamber of Commerce Director Romeo Cruz on the status of the Grant County Veterans Memorial Business and Conference Center.

County Administrative Assistant Kevin Hubbs said he knew it was on Cruz's radar.

District 4 Commissioner Billy Billings said he had gotten a short report from Cruz. "He's busy, busy, busy. The conference center is booked up for months."

Randy Villa (interim county manager and General Services director) presented the General Services report. He said the Grant County Airport is developing rules and regulations to ensure the safety of airport tenants and customers. He noted that people are coming into the airport who are not passengers. "There are also some unruly passengers that don't follow the rules. Other passengers can't find the airport."

He said the Maintenance Department was preparing the fairgrounds for the fair Sept. 22-25. The Cliff-Gila playground equipment was scheduled for later in August. "The roof for the W Mountain repeater has been fixed. In the DWI program, staff is transitioning into a new client database, which should be in place by Oct. 1. Prevention programs have begun in local schools, adding Harrison Schmitt and Aldo Leopold Charter School. The DWI program policies and procedures have been updated."

Villa said the Corre Caminos Transit program is preparing for the US Department of Transportation drug and alcohol program technical assistance review on Oct. 11. New bus stop signs have been installed, and the program is working on its fiscal year 2024 grant application, as well as preparing for an NMDOT compliance site visit and program review on Nov. 1 and 2.

The US DOT will issue an RFP for essential air service in the next few weeks. "Advanced Air's contract is through Jan. 31. 2023. Villa said Advanced Air wanted a multi-year contract, but only got an extension through the end of January 2023. The airport has a new employee Mike Davila, who starts at the end of September."

Edwards asked about the Advanced Air contract. Villa said he would present to the DOT to try to convince them to extend the contract for longer than a year. "And it's been taking a long time for the DOT to make a decision."

Edwards noted that when Boutique Air was providing service, they didn't have to renew every year. Villa agreed and said Advanced Air wanted a 4-year contract.

"How about if the county requests a 4-year or at least 3-year contract?" Edwards asked. "We are open to doing a resolution requesting that."

Villa noted that the flight schedule had changed as of Sept. 1.

Browne said in the case of having to re-book a flight, when he tried it, it went to the new rates, but "I called, and I got the old rate that I had already paid for."

Billings said he was totally open to a 3- or 4-year contract, because he had always been pleased with their service. "What about airport signage? I hear from people that it's hard to find the airport from this direction, from Silver City. How can we get some signs?"

Villa agreed and said there is a prominent sign coming from Deming, but not from Silver City. "The NM DOT will have to put one on Hwy 180. The county can't put up the sign, but hopefully, the DOT will."

For future projects, Villa said the runway/taxiway maintenance project is scheduled to begin soon and would be completed at night, so air service is not disrupted. The front pillars of the courthouse will receive new stucco, and the manager's office Covid safe remodel continues. The show ring barn ventilation and water damage repair is scheduled. The DWI program is planning a float for the Lighted Parade and is working on accreditation for the misdemeanor compliance program, as well as reinstating compliance checks at local bars and restaurants. MRT (moral reconation therapy AKA Driving the Right Way) groups begin in November. The Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition is beginning its fall ad campaign. He also noted that Corre Caminos metal structure bus stops would be installed at pre-determined locations.

Linda Vasquez, financial officer, reported an RFP had been issued for a learning lab facilitator using a CYFD (Children, Youth and Families Department) grant, as well as an RFP for banking services. "Auditors will continue audit field work the week of Sept. 26. The final budget for fiscal year 2023 received DFA approval on Sept. 2."

The next article will continue the county reports.

For the previous articles, please visit: https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/74190-grant-county-commission-holds-work-session-090622-part-1 ; and https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/74224-grant-county-commission-holds-work-session-090622-part-2 .

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