[Editor's Note: This is part two of the Grant County Commission work session on March 7, 2023, and the regular meeting held March 9, 2023. This one begins with county reports at the work session.]

By Mary Alice Murphy

County reports at the Grant County Commission work session on March 7, 2023 began with Detention Center Administrator Joseph Andazola presenting his report.

"We have two new officers in training, and we have five openings, including one sergeant who left us," Andazola said. "Because of the bad weather last week, we rescheduled our job fair to this Thursday, although I did receive an application from the session I held with the Western New Mexico University Police Academy, and two applications were picked up. I completed and submitted the proposal to continue the RISE program for an additional three years. The state is pleased with what we have done so far."

He reported the jail had 69 inmates at the end of February, with an average for the month of 79 inmates. "Today, we have 71," he said. He also noted the detention center had a Covid outbreak, with inmates, officers and medical staff involved. Some are still in quarantine.

"Today we have 19 in the RISE program," Andazola said. "Six are in the facility and 13 are receiving services in the community. I've been working on the presumptive eligibility job description with HR (human resources), so we can get interviews going. Also, we are working on completing the NMPCA (New Mexico Primary Care Association) contract. We are in the midst of a 60-day transition from VitalCore to Roadrunner medical services with a new contract. Roadrunner will have presumptive eligibility out of Albuquerque. They have three years of experience working in corrections in New Mexico."

He noted an amendment for extension of the food services will be on the agenda next month, to extend the service through September 2023. "We will go out for RFP (request for proposal) for food services prior to expiration of the extension."

Andazola said he will conduct corporal testing to fill positions. He said two instructors' courses are coming up, which will take place in Grant County allowing other law enforcement agencies to attend. They include control force instructors' course March 20-23, 2023 and less lethal instructors' course March 28-30, 2023.

"I am working with the manager, and we are off to a good start on our five-year plan," Andazola said. "The facility will be safer when we get the body scanner."

District 2 Commissioner Eloy Medina asked the age requirement for detention center officers and if they were going to the high schools.

Andazola said officers must be at least 18 years old with a high school diploma or a GED. "We will reach out to the high schools. Maybe we can have a career day or even an internship."

District 4 Commissioner Billy Billings said: "We appreciate you. What do you need for retention of officers?"

"Maybe help with beginning pay," Andazola replied. "Often those leaving say they are going somewhere else for better pay. The last person who put in her notice is a single mother and the hours and the pay were her reasons for leaving. We have to work on retention. Maybe something like a retention bonus to stay for two years or they have to pay the money back."

District 5 Commissioner Harry Browne said he didn't have a lot of experience with presumptive eligibility and why it's beneficial.

Andazola said that if an inmate comes in who has insurance, it's good for up to 30 days of detention. "After that we have to determine their eligibility for other insurance. If they don't have insurance, we can help them get Medicaid as soon as they are out of jail. We can help with medications, too, if they have insurance."

Planning Director Randy Hernandez breezed through his report of current projects. They include the review, acceptance and award of acequia supplemental emergency assistance grants by the county. Payments were issued on March 6, 2023.

Infrastructure projects include the task order for the design of Arenas Valley Road in progress, to be paid for through the Colonias Infrastructure Fund.

Bataan Park Veterans' Memorial walking path is pending the engineering task order to begin design plans, paid for through a governor's allocation.

Fleming Tank Road improvement has been resurveyed and easement agreements are in process, paid for by the New Mexico Department of Transportation.

Little Walnut Road Phase 1 construction is pending approval from the New Mexico Environment Department, with bidding anticipated in Spring 2023, to be paid for through Colonias.

The Parks and Recreation Comprehensive Plan has phase 1 in progress, with a site visit this week and an open house Wednesday evening.

The Road Abandonment Committee needs community members to issue letters of interest to serve on the committee, with a deadline of March 29.

The Silver Acres preliminary engineering report was addressed in the prior article. The funding for the report came from ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding.

Construction on the Truck Bypass Road is also pending with approval received from NMED, and funding for the construction coming from the NMDOT.

The veterans' transportation vehicle purchase has been completed, with next steps working on use agreement.

Future projects include replacement of Hamilton Bridge, with potential funding from the NMDOT transportation project fund. Also using the same fund, are potential Ridge Road improvements. The Gila Community Center and Grounds improvement has a funding opportunity from the fiscal year 2024 congressional directed spending cycle.

Hernandez pointed out that two resolutions on the agenda require action—the notice of intent to adopt an ordinance on wireless telecommunication facilities and a resolution authorizing the submission of a Colonias application for Crum Road, amending the match amount to $35,000.

The next report came from General Services Director and Fire Management Officer Randy Villa.

"Construction on the Grant County Airport fuel farm will begin the end of March," Villa said. "Runway maintenance to improve drainage begins in April and will only occur at night after Advanced Air finishes its flights for the day, and the airport will shut down each night. It should take about 12 days to finish."

He noted that fuel sales to Advanced Air were a bit down to 16,947 gallons, a little short of the 17,000 gallons usually sold. "It may be because of weather and they had to fuel up at their other stops instead."

He reported that Corre Caminos has a new bus that will stay in Grant County. "We are looking at a new stop at the Visitor Center, working with the town. Corre Cantinas is starting to get busier, with the average over the past few months at about 250 riders, using the bus instead of driving after drinking. The DWI program is awaiting a grant hearing in mid-April, when the program will have a better idea on how legislative bills may affect it."

Villa said the department had purchased some new Bobcat attachments, a sweeper, a mower and a landscape rake that will help at Bataan Park and other places in the county. Maintenance has completed the fence at the Cliff Park. Bataan Park has new gates to go into the parking lot and one on the north side that leads to the pavilion. New steps, concrete to replace the railroad ties, have been installed by the fields.

"We are gearing up for fire season by getting all the wildland refresher courses completed," Villa said. "We had a structure fire in Cliff that turned into a wildland fire, but it was contained with a good response from the volunteer fire departments, including Cliff, Tyrone, Fort Bayard and Whiskey Creek."

He noted he would be meeting with Burro Mountain Homestead with an educational program on preventing fire.

On March 21, Villa will meet with the Forest Service to review plans for the fire season.

Medina asked if Villa had a plan with all the volunteer fire departments for structural fires as well as wildland fires.

"The Socorro Fire Academy holds regular trainings," Villa said. "Or they can send a trainer down here if we have at least 10 people wanting the training. Plenty of training happens on the structure side as well as the wildland side, with the state and the Forest Service."

Finance Director Linda Vasquez, in her report, noted a bid would go out for the Truck Bypass Road widening and culvert replacement, as well as RFPS, one for legal services, one for airport engineering and another for auditing services, as the current auditor is termed out. A budget hearing will take place at the March 21 meeting.

Road Department Supervisor Joe Grijalva said the blademen are out and getting back to routine, as weather permits. The truck drivers are hauling materials, and the road crews are addressing complaints and patching.

"We are preparing to install warning lights on Airport Road, and the road crew is preparing for the 2023 chip seal projects with tree trimming and culvert cleaning," Grijalva said. "We want to get back to the local government road fund special projects we had for 2022 and could not complete. We received an extension to December 2023. We are also looking at LGRF special projects for 2023. We will get to Bear Mountain Road complaints as soon as it dries up enough. We always ask for patience from the public as we work to address work orders."

IT (internet technology) Director Adam Baca said the department is primarily doing implementation of the managed network switch equipment. "It will be taking our time for the next several weeks. We will be fine tuning the implementation of the server infrastructure, too."

He said the data closet needs a lot of maintenance. "We are removing extremely long ethernet cords. For future projects, we will begin a review of an assessment tool, so all desktops and laptops have the same system. We will also work on network vulnerability scanning. We are working on the fundamentals of key aspects of the system."

Emergency Manager Justin Gojkovich thanked Manager Charlene Webb, Randy Hernandez and Evangelina for their quick work on getting the applications for emergency funding, as well as the review and awards completed. "They had everything done by last Friday. Four to five awards were delivered yesterday, and they were very happy to get the funding, so they can get their headgates and berms fixed."

He said he has continued to join the NMAA (New Mexico Acequia Association) meetings on Thursdays to discuss avenues of help. "The NMDOT and Cordova Construction have begun work removing sediment and debris on the Mimbres, where they have completed five or six ditches. They had a few hitches in Cliff-Gila, but I think they straightened them out. I finished the acequia grant application, as well as the request for design on the Hamilton Bridge.

Future projects include developing a hazard mitigation plan, requesting grants for radios and continuing to assist with the recovery from the floods.

"I am still monitoring the NMDOT sediment and debris removal," Gojkovich said. "Weekly briefing meetings with NMDOT and Cordova take place each Friday."

He also noted that FEMA holds technical assistance calls to assist with projects.

"Thank all of you for your continued support," Gojkovich concluded.

Medina said he has received phone calls from constituents who are very appreciative "of your efforts."

Billings echoed "Ditto for what you've done. You underwent baptism by fire."

Ponce said: "Same here. I'm getting calls thanking you and county staff."

The rest of the work session will be covered in a future article.

For the previous article, please visit https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/77046-grant-county-commission-work-session-held-march-7-2023-part-1

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