[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 4 continues county reports. The previous articles are linked at the bottom of this article.]

By Mary Alice Murphy

Continuing county reports at the Grant County Commission work session on Sept. 6, 2022, Road Department Superintendent Joe Grijalva said with all the rain, his crews have been scrambling to address road issues. He said truck drivers are hauling fill materials to all districts of the county. Grijalva said weather has set his department back about a month for starting on special projects, such as curb and gutter at North Hurley Agua Blanca and setting culverts and lifting and capping Little Walnut Road.

"The bridge on Hamilton Road has been shut down and we're waiting on a report and recommendation from the New Mexico Department of Transportation engineer to how to proceed," Grijalva said. "We received the solar warning lights for Airport Road and Tyrone townsite school bus zones. We will install them when time allows. As always, we ask for patience and understanding from the public as we work to address work orders."

District 3 Commissioner Alicia Edwards thanked Grijalva and "the hard work from all of you."

District 5 Commissioner Harry Browne said he had heard appreciation from Tyrone for the department's work there.

The next report came from Information Technology Department Director Adam Baca.

"We are focusing on fine-tuning the remote monitoring and management tool, as well as the anti-virus solution and the new back-up infrastructure environment," Baca said. "We are testing our backups and recovery in the Google Workspace environment. We replaced the network firewall at the Detention Center We were able to reprogram and swap in new devices."

He said the next major step is to increase security by installing a new firewall in the administration building. "We will focus on the CIS-CAT pro assessor for the desktop fleet. It's a tool to run checks on the desktop and laptop environment and get ideas where we can improve security."

Browne asked if Baca had received the hardware for the firewall.

"Yes, we're mid-level right now, and I wanted to move us to the enterprise level," Baca replied. "It's definitely more robust. The intention is to allow all inspection of everything going in and out without impacting the throughput. I'm told we also have an internet connection at the Detention Center, that when the wind blows, it drops the signal."

Edwards noted that when one calls into county offices, "and I presume it's because we're using VOIP (voice over internet protocol), we often talk over one another. When someone calls me from the county, the ID says Public Service."

Baca said the phone system is managed by WNM Communications. "Maybe the phone system needs rebooting. I have no access into or control of the management of the system."

District 4 Commissioner Billy Billings asked why the county is using WNM Communications. "Was that an RFP (request for proposal)?"

Interim County Manager Randy Villa said it's probably been in for three-to-four years.

Billings said he would like to know what the response is when Baca calls WNM with a problem of the internet dropping.

"In August alone, we had five instances when it dropped," Baca replied. The interruption is in the internet services and calls."

Edwards asked how big a security issue it was.

Baca said he hadn't thought about that, but video arraignments cease and drop.

Edwards said she was thinking about it being a safety problem.

Detention Center Administrator Joseph Andazola said staff has at times had to go so far as to use personal cell phones. The service drops have been lengthy. "When we see raindrops, there is no connectivity, and we only have one cell phone in the facility. Sometimes, we go on lockdown. Medical response also takes longer."

Edwards asked Baca how he would change the situation.

"I would recommend that CenturyLink extend its fiber network to the Detention Center," Baca said.

District 1 Commissioner and Chair Chris Ponce asked how long that would take.

Baca said the fiber connection would have to come from the corner of Bonita Road. "To get on the schedule would be at least nine months."

Villa said when the county switched from CenturyLink to WNM no RFP was required.

Baca noted that WNM connectivity is wireless.

Emergency Manager Justin Gojkovich gave his report. "On Aug. 20, the flooding in the Cliff-Gila area caused the closure of the bridge over the Gila River on Highway 180. I contacted Ami Evans of the NMDOT District 1, and she put the bridge on the list for road closures. We shut the bridge down on Sunday, and on Aug. 22, I left for required training to Los Alamos. What was holding the asphalt on each end of the bridge was not sound. After inspection, they determined the bridge was sound, but about 45 thousand square feet of bridge approach collapsed. Randy and I were in constant contact. Eloy Medina, Gila Regional Emergency Medical Services director and I discussed emergency services. We also got in contact with Dan Otero at Hidalgo Medical Services for emergencies.

"Native Air wouldn't land because of the rain and wind," he continued. "Randy got in contact with Freeport McMoRan and they opened one of their access roads for emergencies. No emergencies or oxygen were called for. And the NM DOT was quick on the repair. The bridge was open again by 6:30 p.m. Thursday."

He said Gila Regional on Aug. 23 lost its Wi-Fi. "So Chief Financial Officer (Patrick) Banks was also in contact with me. It turned out it wasn't WNM, it was somebody trying to splice into our internet box at the hospital. Tomorrow FEMA will call me to walk me through the hazard management plan to get it up and running. The county hasn't had one for a couple of years."

Gojkovich said he and Billings had gone out to the flooded area in Gila on Tuesday. "We walked the river to see the overall damage. They lost ditches, headgates and there was lots of sediment. NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service) also went out on Wednesday to see what they can do. They passed out information to people. Then last Thursday, we went out to Mimbres. The flooding washed away about 2½ acres of land. A family lost their winter crop of alfalfa, and they may have to sell cattle. The county has declared an emergency, and we're talking to FEMA. Damage costing at least $115,800 is the threshold before we qualify for FEMA. We hit the threshold almost immediately. We have scheduled a date for FEMA, but with the state under water, it might not be quick. We cannot ask for FEMA help without the state emergency declaration."

Billings commented: "I can't say how impressed I am with whoever brought this fellow (Gojkovich) on. Also (Lt. Gov.) Howie (Morales) told me the emergency declaration is in draft form. Rep. Luis Terrazas set up a meeting with Sen. Siah Hemphill and the Silver City Daily Press to go out on Tuesday. The residents have issues out there. Some crops that were not destroyed can't get watered because the ditches are destroyed. Is there any other funding to help them?"

Gojkovich said NRCS said funding was likely at least 18 months out. In other places entire towns are in danger of washing away. "(Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments Executive Director) Priscilla Lucero is also making calls."

Billings said he's been in contact with Rep. Rebecca Dow about the Water Trust Board. She told me the agency is tied up in the application process. Maybe with communication between the Interstate Stream Commission and the Water Trust Board some funding could be made available. "Rep. Dow is in contact with the ISC engineer. There needs to be more coordination. I understand there is some loss, but the larger loss is the devaluation of the Fund because of inflation. We have lost a significant part of the then $90 million a couple of years ago. If we could get it freed up for these needs and the regional water system, it would be good."

"I'm heartbroken that it's not available," Ponce said. "I supported the bill to put the New Mexico Unit Fund in the hands of the Water Trust Board, but they are not supporting us."

Edwards asked if there was anything the commissioners could do as a body. "We can't wait until the legislative session."

Billings said Lucero, according to Dow, was going to address the money, as she is a member of the Water Trust Board. "She and Justin will be meeting with Cliff folks on Thursday to address funding options. Hopefully, we get the emergency declaration from the state."

Edwards said she has property on an acequia in the Mimbres. "Are we doing anything similar to meet with the folks in Mimbres?"

Gojkovich said Lucero told him the Mimbres folks are invited to the Cliff meeting. "I will meet with people in Mimbres."

Billings said he talked to Autumn Bruton and that anyone is welcome to the Thursday meeting.

Villa said he would get with Gojkovich and set up a meeting with Mimbres folks to let them know about the resources available. "There is flooding all over New Mexico. We have submitted to NRCS, and we would help with the 25 percent in kind match."

Edwards said she would help facilitate the meeting in Mimbres.

Gojkovich said: "We will make it happen within a couple of weeks."

Edwards asked if FEMA would visit both areas, and Gojkovich said: "Yes."

"Justin has done an incredible job," Villa said. "I also want to thank the Cliff residents, thank Freeport McMoRan and NMDOT for their quick responses. It's been a team effort."

The next article will start with the public hearing at the Sept. 8 regular meeting.

For the previous articles, please visit: https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/74190-grant-county-commission-holds-work-session-090622-part-1 ; https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/74224-grant-county-commission-holds-work-session-090622-part-2; and https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/74257-grant-county-commission-holds-work-session-090622-part-3 .

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