[Editor's Note: This is the third of a multi-part series of articles on the Grant County Commission's work session on May 9, 2023 and regular meeting on May 11, 2023. This begins at the work session, with the last two applicants for the GRMC Board of Trustees telling commissioners about themselves and why they should be appointed.]

By Mary Alice Murphy

During the Grant County Commission work session, after a presentation by Sixth Judicial District Attorney Michael Renteria, commissioners heard from the final two applicants for the Gila Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees.

Betty Vega spoke first. "You have my resume and application. I was born in Silver City and moved to Deming. When I grew up, I moved back to Silver City with my husband and children who grew up here. I'm vested in this community, so I thought maybe I could be part of the Board of Trustees. I have a Master's in community economic development. One of the precepts is to build the community from the inside out. I would take the good parts of the community to build on Gila Regional Medical Center, which is one of the most valuable resources in the community and has a direct impact on the community. It's a very complex organization. Remote rural areas bring different challenges, including funding. We must collaborate with our other resources. Challenges bring opportunities. The Gila Regional Board of Trustees can play a pivotal role if they provide total transparency. Commitment to transparency is key, by providing timely reports. It is important to understand the organization. Silver City and Grant County demographics have been changing. We promoted ourselves as a retirement community. I want you to understand that I do not have a medical background, but I have recently experienced great treatment at Gila Regional."

The second one to speak was Javier "Harvey" Salas. "I feel fortunate that I was part of the group that created a good vision for the hospital. [As a commissioner he served on the GRMC Governing Board after the county took over governance of the hospital about three years ago.] I would like to bring the vision to fruition. I represent three groups of the community, the Mining District, the Hispanics, and the seniors. I want to be part of the ongoing and continuing process. The hospital needs to continue to listen to the community. I know it was difficult to make this decision, but I want to continue the vision we created, so it never gets to the point of nearly losing the hospital like we almost did. I want to keep it going for many years to come."

[Spoiler alert: See https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/78186-grant-county-commissioners-choose-new-grmc-board-of-trustees-members-051123 to learn if they were appointed.]

During the next portion of the work session, commissioners heard county reports.

The first to speak was Detention Center Administrator Joseph Andazola. He reported that the facility has four new officers in training, and he also conducted two interviews last week. The Detention Center still has seven officer openings. The entire staff recently completed peer support training with PSPG (Public Safety Psychology Group out of Albuquerque) through the R.I.S.E. grant.

Andazola said three officers had been promoted to Corporal, Cody Thayer, Denae Ponce and Dylan Rivera.

The jail population stood at 71 on April 30, 2023, with the average daily population in April at 75, with 76 on the day of the report, May 9, 2023.

Twenty-two RISE program participants included 10 in the facility and 12 being served by community resources. "I just got notice that our RISE grant funding was renewed for another year, so I'm looking forward to expanding our services," Andazola said. "I met with Luna County to apply for the grant, and they, too, got the grant."

For future projects, Andazola said he continues to work on the presumptive eligibility position, so the county can post it and submit the contract for NMPCC (New Mexico Primary Care Council in the NM Human Services Department). The body scanner is in the facility and installation is being completed. "We will have training on it this week. We also need state inspections, and we are updating the policy and procedures for the scanner."

He noted he is working with procurement on a new contract for food services. He said he has openings for two sergeant positions.

May 7-13 was Correctional Officer Week, and the facility planned for a celebration lunch that Friday. The facility boiler replacement of all four boilers was expected to be completed by May 12.

Andazola asked for support on purchasing equipment and guidance on grant opportunities while he begins a review and update of the five-year plan.

District 4 Commissioner Billy Billings asked: "Where are we on accreditation?"

Andazola replied that part of the issue was the physical plant. "Replacing the boilers is part of that. Also, part is our medical services. The new company we are contracting with has an accreditation staff person who will help us comply and apply for accreditation."

"I want to express our appreciation for what a good job you're doing," Billings said.

District 3 Commissioner Alicia Edwards congratulated Andazola for the renewal of the RISE program. "It's clear from your reports that the program is working well. The body scanner will help control illicit substances, right?"

"Yes, it will help find fentanyl, as well as firearms," Andazola said.

Edwards asked about the recent reduction in the number of inmates.

"We have a working relationship with the District Attorney and the RISE program is also helping," Andazola said. "Some of the RISE participants have completed a year and some haven't come back for two years. The DA is sending people to prison. We are getting detainees and holding them accountable." He also noted that HMS (Hidalgo Medical Services) and Tu Casa will be part of how to blend community resources.

"We have quite a lot of resources in the community," Edwards said. "What is lacking is the capacity to bring them together. I appreciate your forward thinking on that."

Planning Director Randy Hernandez was presenting the two county Department of Transportation applications that morning at the Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments office, so County Manager Charlene Webb gave a brief report.

She listed the current projects:1) a task order is in progress for the preliminary and final design of the Arena Valley Road project to be funded by the Colonias Infrastructure Fund; 2) Bataan Park Veterans Memorial walking path design task order in progress to be funded by a governor allocation; 3) Fleming Tank Road Improvements minor re-design in progress. (NMDOT); 4) Little Walnut Road Phase 1 construction bid released on May 1 with bids due on May 31 (Colonias); 5) Parks and Recreation comprehensive plan, phases 2 and 3 in progress, (Junior Bill); 6) Truck Bypass Road construction bid released on April 28 with submittals due May 23 (NMDOT); 7) Old Detention Center Brownfields project with New Mexico Environment Department and Grant County to begin the cleanup phase, with sub-grant agreement expected by July 2023 (NMED); and 8) Road abandonment request for Oliver Ranch Road and Oliver Rental Road, with the committee reviewing the request and anticipating recommendation at a June 2023 meeting.

Webb also noted the code enforcement officer would present quarterly reports, with one attached. "She is doing a great job."

District 5 Commissioner Harry Browne said it was great to see code enforcement happening. "I'm not getting near as many calls."

The next article will begin with the General Services and Fire Management report and continue with county reports.

For the previous articles, visit https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/78186-grant-county-commissioners-choose-new-grmc-board-of-trustees-members-051123; and https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/78245-grant-county-commission-holds-work-session-050923-part-2 .

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