[Editor's Note: This is part 7 of a series of articles that will cover the Grant County Commission work session of Jan. 10, 2023, as well as the regular session of Jan. 12, 2023.)

By Mary Alice Murphy

This article continues with the work session review of the regular meeting agenda and decisions made for the County Commission meetings of Jan. 10 and Jan. 12, 2023.

An agreement came up for consideration by the commissioners.

At the work session, County Manager Charlene Webb explained the agreement addressed the lease of the county-owned Black Street building next to the Courthouse to be used as the Silver City District 1 Magistrate Court building. "We worked out the details on the lease agreement. It covers our costs, as well as utility costs with the Administrative Office of the Courts for the price of 20 cents per square foot per month. We negotiated a provision that if it doesn't cover our costs, we can raise the price, so we break even."

Commissioners approved the lease agreement at the regular meeting.

A resolution addressing the annual Open Meetings Act compliance, Webb said was the same as last year, with only date changes.

District 1 Commissioner and Chair Chris Ponce asked if a meeting would take place on Jan. 24. Webb said she anticipated it would be a special meeting. [Editor's Note: The meeting was canceled due to lack of business.]

District 3 Commissioner Alicia Edwards asked about the Jan. 9 and Jan 11, 2024 meetings. Webb said they would be added when the commissioners discuss the item in December 2023. "I suggest we do the OMA in December for next year."

District 5 Commissioner Harry Browne asked why two sentences were almost identical.

"For staff's sake, please leave it as it is," Webb requested. "The draft and the final have the same 72 hours requirements to give flexibility to allow 72 hours to revise an agenda."

Deputy Clerk Connie Holguin said both the work and regular meeting agendas are delivered 72 hours prior to the meetings. "But we will still have 72 hours to fix things on the regular agenda between the work session and regular meeting."

District 4 Commissioner Billy Billings said: "If we sit here and nitpick and you can't see that the county manager has things to do…"

District 2 Commissioner Eloy Medina agreed. "Leave it as it is. Yes, they work for us, but they have work to do."

Browne said: "If it's hurting morale, then I'm fine with moving on. But I have a substantive question on item 17. My preference is the public input is at both the work session and the regular meeting. But my preference is that it is limited at the work session to only items on the work session agenda."

Ponce noted that the agenda states that as part of public input comments. "The resolution has to match what we publish."

Webb said: "Please give us the exact language you want for item 17.

Browne said the work session public input will allow only items on the agenda. Regular meeting public input will allow any comments. And for special meetings, only agenda items are allowed.

Commissioners approved the OMA Resolution R-23-01 at the regular meeting.

The commissioners recessed for a short break.

The next resolution addressed the adoption of the required Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) annual certification and commitments for compliance.

Commissioners approved the resolution at the regular meeting.

The following resolution of a notice of intent to consider a low-income rebate ordinance, which is required to consider every odd-numbered year, elicited some discussion at the work session.

Browne said: "I'm still for it, even though we have no new data. I think it's our only chance to give a property tax break to low-income property owners."

"I understand where you're coming from," Ponce said. "I think the issues with the property damage from the flooding in Cliff-Gila and Mimbres mean that we don't know what we'll be seeing in our budget. I do struggle to understand where it will be at the end of the year."

Medina asked if the county manager had an estimate of how much the rebate might cost the county. Webb said when it came up two years ago, she researched Santa Fe and Los Alamos, which have the rebate. "At that time, it cost Santa Fe $600,000. I estimated it might cost us $200,000 to $300,000. The biggest issue is the way the statute is written. You don't know until the next year to find out how many people took advantage of the rebate. Our statistics in this county show that we have a higher percentage of low-income property owners. It would be like writing a blank check. We rely on the copper tax and the PILT (federal payment in lieu of taxes) that we may or may not get depending on the federal government's whims. It's pretty scary for someone sitting in my chair and in Linda's chair (Linda Vasquez, county financial officer). Yes, I would like to help people, but it's too uncertain, so we just can't."

Browne protested that he thought $200,000 to $300,000 was high. "Only low-income property owners will be eligible, and our property values are lower than Santa Fe's. The problem is we don't know. We don't have the data to correlate the percentage of property owners who are low-income. It would have a cap of $350 per couple."

Medina noted that the cost could impact all "our projects. It would be a hit to the operational budget, such as for match funds."

Edwards said the PILT is considered an entitlement fund, and "we know where the Republican House is on entitlement funding."

Ponce, at the regular meeting, said: "I really don't think we need to approve this to do this at this time, especially as we don't know what expenses we have coming up with road damage and flooding damage."

Billings seconded the motion although he said he was not in favor of it.

The vote came down to two in favor—Browne and Edwards—and three against it—Ponce, Billings and Medina—so the resolution failed.

The following four resolutions addressed commissioner and staff member appointments to various agencies.

For the Southwest Solid Waste Authority, Planning Director Randy Hernandez was approved as member, with Webb and General Services Director Randy Villa as alternates.

For the Southwestern County Commission Alliance appointments, Billings was approved as member, with Medina as alternate. Browne said he appreciated Billings not charging for travel, and "why I'm voting yes."

For the Grant County Water Commission, Ponce said he messed up. "I talked to Commissioner Medina about serving, and I forgot that Commissioner Browne was interested in being a member. My proposal to keep Commissioner Medina as the member and Browne as the alternate." The appointments were approved.

On the issue of the New Mexico CAP (Central Arizona Project) Entity, Billings said the entity is still in existence as a placeholder, and he would be willing to continue to serve." His service was approved.

Browne said he thought it was worth keeping as a placeholder. "I was frustrated with nothing happening with the funding that was allocated to the area."

For the Workforce Investment Act Elected Officials Board, Ponce was approved as member.

Webb was approved as member of the Regional Dispatch Authority. "If need be, I can get a staff member or commissioner to fill in for me."

The next resolution authorized the execution and delivery of a Colonias Infrastructure Project Fund loan/grant agreement for the benefit of the Little Walnut project in the amount of $2 million. Hernandez said, with the county match, the total amount is $2.2 million, "which will allow us to begin construction of this phase, the first phase. The town limits go to Tanglewood, and the second phase is from Tanglewood to the end of the roadway."

The final resolution addressed establishing an inclement weather policy.

"I incorporated your feedback and formalized it in the policy," Webb said. "When we did have inclement weather, I received positive feedback or no feedback on the way we handled it. We never have had a formal policy, and it has been up to the manager. It is your job to enforce the policy, so this is my recommendation. We have to comply with the OMA, but if there's a blizzard, only primary support staff is required to be here. We have to give notice even if we want to move a meeting to Zoom."

Commissioners approved the policy at the regular meeting.

The next article will attempt to complete the meeting.

[Editor's Note: Tech problem after tech problem, and a family funeral have limited my writing time the past week or so. Apologies. I try my best, but sometimes it isn't good enough, especially for me! Thanks for your patience.]


For the preceding articles, please visit https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/76055-grant-county-commission-work-session-011023-part-1; https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/76085-grant-county-commission-work-session-011023-part-2; https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/76114-grant-county-commission-work-session-011023-part-3;
https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/76169-grant-county-commission-holds-work-session-011023-and-regular-meeting-011223-part-4; https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/76178-grant-county-commission-hears-presentations-at-regular-meeting-011223-part-5 and https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/76320-grant-county-commission-reviews-regular-meeting-011223-agenda-part-6 .


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