[Editor's Note: This is part five and the final article on the Grant County Commission work session on March 7, 2023, and the regular meeting held March 9, 2023. This one completes the presentations and begins with county reports, as well as continuing work session review and decisions that took place at the regular meeting.]

By Mary Alice Murphy

After presentations at the Grant County Commission regular meeting on March 9, 2023, next came reports from elected officials.

Treasurer Patrick Cohn was unable to attend but provided his report to commissioners.

Sheriff Raul Villanueva gave the report on February activities of the department. He noted calls for the month totaled 1,336, with Dispatch sending them on 455, and another 881 were self-initiated by deputies. He reported the busiest days of the month were Fridays, with 16 percent higher call volume. The busiest time of day is 7 a.m.- 8 a.m., with a 7.3 percent higher call volume than other times of day.

"Cases of interest include Feb. 4, where shots were fired in Arenas Valley," Villanueva said. "It was juveniles and one, with an odor of alcohol, admitted to shooting an AR-15 outside of the vehicle. The juveniles were released to their parent or guardian, and charges were filed for shooting at or from a motor vehicle, negligent use of a deadly weapon and minor allowing self to be served. Citations were filed with the Juvenile Probation Office, and no one was injured."

On Feb. 13, a report came in from El Refugio, Inc. domestic violence shelter from a woman, who said the night before, she was in a vehicle with a couple who engaged in domestic violence, hitting one another. She stayed with the couple for fear that something would happen to victim and victim's children. She became a victim of sexual assault and was battered in the process, when he tried to strangle her. "The case is still under investigation and charges will be filed accordingly," Villanueva reported.

Another case was an attempted suicide on Camino Tolteca, where the victim passed away.

Villanueva said the Grant County Sheriff's Office continues to place high importance on training. Five cadets are performing well in the Western New Mexico University Police Academy program. ACO (animal control officer) Jessie Phillips has completed successfully the ACO I and ACO II training, provided online by the National Animal Care and Control Association.

The sheriff noted that February was a slow month for training, but it will pick up with deputies going to various trainings in March. Chief Deputy Anthony Bencomo completed his certification by Waiver packets 1 and 2 and is looking to attend the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy in April.

Villanueva said state-mandated training will commence in the fall, with the GCSO committed to working with state and local law enforcement partners to provide training locally, using local and in-house instructors. "We are also committed to partnering with WNMU and the police academy program."

On the federal Stonegarden report, Villanueva said the office is receiving within the next couple of months, four new vehicles using capital outlay funding and Stonegarden funding. He said the D.A.R.E. program continues in the schools.

Because of funding that the office received, he plans a retention and recruitment bonus in June. "We lost two more deputies. One retired to work at the mine, and one resigned to go to work with State Police for more money. We need to move quicker to replace certified officers. Lt. Manuel Maldonado has also announced his retirement. I thank the Road Department for keeping our vehicles on the road."

The following report came from Assessor Misty Trujillo. She expressed her appreciation to her family for supporting her. "I also share my appreciation to the office for accepting me as assessor. I give a big thanks to Raul Turrieta, who is my deputy assessor. He pushed me and brought me out of my comfort zone to run. I also appreciate the public. My door is always open. In the assessor's office we are required to become certified in four courses. In February, we closed the office to send four appraisers to the Zoom courses. They all passed."

She noted that the end of February was the last day to render personal property. "Yes, we are still accepting them, but there will be a 5 percent penalty added to their tax. We are working on the 2023 valuations to get them to the printer. I want to let property owners know that they will be sent out April 1, letting you know what your valuations are for the year. You will have 30 days to correct your name, your legal description or values. To make changes, you must have the protest document. For those 65 and older the exemption increased to $40,400. You have to provide last year's income to quality for an exemption, which is based on gross modified income. If you are under that, you qualify for an exemption. We do not control the tax bill; we only control the value."

Trujillo noted she was sending three more employees to training.

District 5 Commissioner Harry Browne asked about the long-term reports. "When Mathew James was still here, he told us he was working on a statistical evaluations."

"We have about 2,000 records that need to be fixed," Trujillo said. "We're cleaning them up. The biggest project is our land study. The year 2024 will be better if we have disclosure."

The financial report on the regular meeting agenda was heard at the work session. Financial Director Linda Vasquez reported expenditures for the period of Feb. 2 – March 2, 2023 totaled $3,069,376.51, including two pay periods totaling $447,449.81. Extraordinary expenses above $10,000 are listed in the PDF below.

Commissioners approved the report at the regular meeting.

The first item under new business addressed the consideration of the 2022 Volunteer Firefighters annual reporting for PERA (Public Employees Retirement Association) from the volunteer fire departments from Cliff/Gila, Fort Bayard/Santa Rita, Lower Mimbres, Pinos Altos, Sapillo Creek, Tyrone, Upper Mimbres and Whiskey Creek.

Commissioners approved the reports at the regular meeting.

Procurement Officer Veronica Rodriguez presented three transfers/deletions at the work session. The first was the transfer of a 2000 Ford brush truck from Lower Mimbres VFD to Hurley, which needed a brush truck; the second was the transfer of a 1998 Freightliner water tender from Tyrone VFD to Fort Bayard VFD; and the third was sending a 1997 Quality tow dolly from the Road Department to auction.

Commissioners approved the three actions at the regular meeting.

The following item discussed at the work session addressed whether the county should be the sponsor of a NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) EWP (emergency watershed protection) assistance in the amount of $3 million.

Browne said it wasn't clear to him that the Grant Soil and Water Conservation District had the capacity to handle it.

County Manager Charlene Webb said she had talked to Lincoln County, which was the sponsor on a similar project. "I will talk to them again and ask some more questions. I know we have to do something, because of cases such as the woman who spoke today wondering if she will have access to her home."

District 4 Commissioner Billy Billings asked how many landowners are eligible for the funding.

Webb said at least 61, with some being simple. The funding is good for 220 days after an agreement is signed, but the funding can be extended if needed.

District 2 Commissioner Eloy Medina said the "in-kind work is a concern to him, because I don't want to overcommit the Road Department."

Billings said the landowners can likely provide the 25 percent match with their in-kind work.

"Yes, I have draft agreements for that," Webb said. "If the landowners do the work, it will be done quicker. I have a list of projects from simple to complicated. I'll have (Emergency Manager) Justin (Gojkovich) send the list to you."

Billings noted these are clean-up projects, not regular maintenance.

Following public input at the regular meeting from Dusty Hunt of the Grant SWCD saying they would be the lead on the project, when the agenda item came up in the regular meeting, District 1 Commissioner and Chair Chris Ponce said he agreed with the Grant SWCD being the lease, with the "stipulation that staff coordinate with the soil and water conservation district."

"I talked to Dusty, and we discussed a partnership," Webb said. "We will figure out the details in another meeting with Justin, Dusty and Aaron Reynolds, NRCS (National Resource Conservation Services state program manager). We will require some costs. The soil and water conservation district will be the fiscal agent and NRCS will provide technical support. I feel comfortable moving forward on the $3 million for damages from flooding in Grant County."

In answer to a question from Browne on how much money the county might have to put out, Webb said she couldn't give him an answer. "We don't know how many of the 61 landowners will to in-kind work."

Browne asked where the county would get any money needed.

Webb said if Senate Bill 334 is passed, which Sens. Siah Hemphill and Crystal Diamond co-sponsored, it offers funding due to damages caused by the Black Fire, of which the flooding is a direct cause. "I would attempt to do as much in-kind with the Road Department. If we can, great, if not, we'll find cash in our operating funds."

Ponce noted the Road Department is stretched. "I would like to see the department come up to necessary staffing levels. In-kind sounds easy, but manpower will go into the decision."

Billings asked if the commissioners are giving authority to the manager.

Ponce said he believes the MOUs and agreements would be coming to the Commission.

"Before we expend any money, we will come back to you," Webb confirmed.

Billings asked where the funding for a project manager would come from.

Webb said the EWP would pay for a project manager, which will be provided by the Grant Soil and Water Conservation District." She noted she hoped to have more information for the March 21 special meeting.

Commissioners at the regular meeting approved the soil and water conservation district being the lead, in collaboration with the county.

The following item of new business addressed consideration of a proposal for re-roofing the Grant County Veterans Memorial Business and Conference Center for $1,286,623,71 by RoofCare.

Webb said it is critical to do it as soon as possible, and it would be taking the roof off, down to its deck. Photos showed the roof damage as well as buckets used to catch drips in Ace Hardware. "This roof will not survive the monsoon season. Patching is no longer working."

To questions about financing, Webb said the county has allocated ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding, because Grant County is a low-income community. "The bonds were our first choice for the funding, but we will not sell them until October. (Maintenance Supervisor) Jason (Lockett) said we can't wait."

Ponce said he supported using the ARPA for $1.3 million. "If we wait it will be $2.3 million."

Browne asked for an update on the ARPA expenditures to date. Webb said she and Planning Director Randy Hernandez will get the information to the commissioners.

Webb also said the material to be used for the roof is a thermo-plastic oline, which is kind of like rubber.

Lockett said both roofs have to come off. The new roof will be welded to the deck and then the TPO on top.

At the regular meeting, commissioners approved the contract for re-roofing the conference center.

The final news business item addressed an ARPA allocation for the construction of a holding room at the Grant County Courthouse. With minimal discussion, commissioners approved the allocation.

In the agreements section of the agenda, two lease agreements with Hidalgo Medical Services for the Mimbres and Gila senior centers addressed the lease agreements with the county for use of the county-owned facilities. The contract stated that HMS may meet its in-kind obligations through providing senior services to the community, including but not limited to congregate meals, home-delivered meals, senior transports and volunteer hours.

Ponce said the senior centers are important to him. "Last year, HMS asked for a budget increase. "We need to make sure we stay on top of that. Seniors are not only getting meals, but they also are getting social and recreational benefits."

Commissioners approved both lease agreements with HMS at the regular meeting.

The last agreement addressed an agreement with Rodey Law Firm for bond counsel services. Webb said the amount is within her signing authority, so "because I have not received the draft, this item can be tabled indefinitely. It doesn't require your approval."

Commissioners tabled the item indefinitely at the regular meeting.

Several resolutions were under consideration.

The first addressed the submission of the Grant County maintained road mileage of 687.87 miles to the New Mexico Department of Transportation. Webb said the mileage included the deletion of a portion of Bald Knoll Road.

Commissioners approved the submission at the regular meeting.

Hernandez explained a resolution of a notice of intent to consider an ordinance entitled Wireless Telecommunication facilities, regulating the siting and permitting of wireless communications facilities, as the next step in approval. After any needed edits, the item will come before the commissioners in April for a public hearing.

Commissioners approved the notice of intent.

Hernandez also presented the amended Colonias Infrastructure Fund application for Crum Road improvements planning and design. "We now have a better estimate of the match. We need to increase it to $35,000, so this one is superseding the one you previously approved."

Commissioners approved the resolution.

The final resolution addressed the budget adjustment requests amending the fiscal year 2023 budget. Vasquez presented the increases and decreases for several budget items. The final result was an increase in revenues of $585,175, and a decrease of -$947,000.

Commissioners approved the BAR at the regular session.

At the end of the work session, Medina gave the first county report. "I just want to point out that on March 15, the Mimbres Senior Center will hold a grand re-opening. And March 22 is Senior Center Appreciation Day."

Browne and Billings had no reports.

Ponce said his only report was "food for thought. Our meeting coming up on March 21 will address the Gila Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees. I want to point out the lack of applications. Maybe we can give the county manager permission to re-advertise. We have received about 12. I would like to see more applications."

As the Grant County Health Care Claims Board at the regular meeting, they approved indigent health claims for January in the amount of $3,642.75 and a February total of $254.95. In addition, commissioners approved an indigent burial for February in the amount of $600 to Terrazas Funeral Chapels.

Back as the Grant County Board of Commissioners, Billings, Browne and Ponce had no reports.

The commissioners went into executive session but anticipated no action as a result of the session. Ponce noted that at the prior executive session, no action had been taken in or after the session.

For the previous articles, please visit https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/77046-grant-county-commission-work-session-held-march-7-2023-part-1; https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/77082-grant-county-commission-work-session-held-march-7-2023-part-2; https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/77157-grant-county-commission-work-session-held-march-7-2023-part-3; and https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/77181-grant-county-commission-work-session-and-regular-meeting-held-march-7-and-march-9-2023-part-4 .

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