By Lynn Janes

On March 25, 2023, the commission held a regular meeting at the City Annex Building.

The meeting started with Alex Brown, Silver City town manager, calling the meeting to order and leading the Pledge of Allegiance.

Commission members in attendance, Grant County Commissioner Eloy Medina, Bayard Mayor Chon Fierro,, Santa Clara Village Administrator Sheila Hudman, Hurley Mayor Pro Tem Richard Maynes and Brown.

The commission approved the agenda.

The commission approved the minutes from the March 16, 2023, meeting.

Karl Pennock, RCAC (rural community assistance corporation) said he couldn't do much with a financial analysis until he knew what funding they had to work with, and he also needs the preliminary engineering report. He would also need a snapshot of the utilities' financial operations from each member to figure out share costs.

Blanca Spurgeon with RCAC didn't have any updates

Priscilla Lucero, Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments director, said the Colonias Infrastructure Fund had awarded $3.3 million for the design phase of the project. She did caution they had to have all the documents showing readiness to proceed by October 1, 2023. One concern that needed to be addressed would be ownership of property, as well as easements, to to do the project. Brown said he didn't think that would be necessary until they were at the construction phase. Maynes said he didn't think that would be needed at that point. They would be checking to make sure.

Hudman asked if they would have to share in the match funds needed to do the project. Brown said: No, that Silver City would be providing that up front but in the end that each entity would share in the operating cost.

Lucero said next year they would be looking at $71.5 million in available funding for Colonias. Brown said each project can apply for up to 15 percent of that amount. This project could get up to $10 million next year. This year some of the applicants had not been funded because of not being able to meet the requirements.

Ashley Byer with Senator Martin Heinrich's office told the regional water commission to apply for Congressional Direct Spending at a previous meeting. Lucero said an application has been turned in and now they just have to wait.

Lucero, NM Senator Siah Correa Hemphill and the New Mexico Finance Authority met to see how they could start funding projects that need design first. They will have $100 million for water projects this year.

The Water Trust Board can offer a 100 percent grant—a recent change. They have seen a need for this in many communities. Lucero said it will cover planning documents and design. "They are seeing a shift because of the need."

Lucero said, "We need to consider capital improvement plans for this project."

A letter has been submitted to ISC (interstate Stream Commission) for the $1.3 million to transfer that funding to this project. Lucero said they have not heard anything from them on this currently.

Brown suggested that if they will be able to move the $1.3 million it could be used right away to start on the construction. I could be used to finish the needed 3rd well in Hurley that didn't get funded. It would cost $700,000 to $800,00. "I would prove to all the funding sources we are moving forward. We will meet with ISC and then come back and have a formal vote on the issue."

Lucero said that the commission should now be ready to present to the ISC board and "let them know how far we have come and keep them informed. One of their concerns had been how we would be using the asset they invested in. "

Randy Ellison, Freeport McMoRan Chino general manager, said the final agreements have been given to the council in Hurley for their water rights. They may need some help switching them from commercial to municipal. Maynes said it would be on the next agenda in June.

Lucero had an update on the PER (preliminary engineering report). She and the town of Silver City had been working with the EPA. The question they had was how our RFP (request for proposal) had been done and if it followed federal requirements. It must show it had been sent to disadvantaged businesses specifically. In New Mexico you can't do that without procurement violations. In New Mexico that would show preferential treatment. They must follow state rules. "RFP is open to everyone, and we don't know how to prove it went to disadvantaged businesses. We are investigating to see how we can do this." Kristina Ortiz of the Rural Partners Network (RPN) asked that they send her the contract and she would see what she could do. She had only been aware of needing a list of who applied. Lucero said that had not been asked for.

Brown gave a timeline of what would the commission could do moving forward. The first thing would be to get on the ISC agenda and get the funding here in the next few months. By then the PER would be done and they could start applying for construction money.

Ortiz announced that Dona Ana had received $28 million from Colonias, and the four-county area (Grant, Luna, Catron, and Hidalgo Counties) here received $20 million.

Maynes received a text from George Esqueda of Stantec concerning the need for easements for the design phase and he said it wouldn't be necessary at that time.

Public input none currently.

Commission input none currently

Next meeting will take place June 15, 2023


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