By Mary Alice Murphy

The Grant County Commissioner held a special meeting to make decisions on several agreements and resolutions.

The Grant County Commission, after the traditional opening ceremonies, including the Pledge of Allegiance and the Salute to the State Flag, as well as the approval of the agenda, next heard public input.

Danny Castillo, the first to speak, thanked the commissioners for allowing him to speak on behalf of the Grant County Sheriff's Department deputies and introduced himself as the chaplain of the Grant County Sheriff's Office. "I got permission to bring this vest in. It's pretty heavy; it weighs a good 20-25 pounds. I think it's a daily reminder of the dangers of the job. Every time I put it on, it's a weighty reminder that the job carries the weight of danger. Every time they say goodbye to their family in the morning, it may be the last time. I've seen the deputies at work, and I am always amazed at how calm they remain even when faced with a violent individual. I hope the commissioners can give them a raise for their hard job. At the end of a 12-hour shift, they are dead tired.

When they finish a shift, they take off the vest, so the weight of the vest comes off, but the weight of the job doesn't come off. When they are quiet is when I know they need help. I know one older officer who told me he never used to draw his weapon, and now he does it weekly. He also has had to use Narcan on children for overdoses. I want to say thank you to the officers, and I thank the commissioners for taking a raise into consideration."

Roberta "Bertie" Berry, trauma nurse at Gila Regional Medical Center, said she speaks on behalf of the officers on giving them a more competitive wage. "My brother retired from the Grant County Sheriff's Office. My father was a reserve deputy. I interact with deputies often. I have taught them. I work with them. I am honored to speak out in favor of an increased wage. I see them as a robust presence in the county. I ask you to raise their pay. Not a one of us understands the dangers they face. Even inside the hospital, it has gotten more dangerous."

The next speaker, Austin Breneman (spelling ?) said he moved to Silver City to enjoy his retirement. "I'm pleased with my life, but I have had perpetual trespassers taking over a private property and trashing it. In every instance of dealing with the Grant County Sheriff's Office, they have been professional, respectful, and effective. Their prompt arrival and service, for what was fortunately not a dangerous situation, was dealt with well. I did some research, and I commend you on an effort to give raises. I want to let them know the community supports them."

The next item on the agenda was a presentation on the Grant County Compensation Study, done by Valiant Consulting Group, with Kim DeFilippis and Stacie Jackson giving the report.

DeFilipis said she would share details with the commissioners. "Stacie is our compensation expert, which is equivalent to a CPA (certified public accountant)."

"We recommend a structure and how to maintain and implement it," DeFilippis said. "I apologize that our presentation has a few old numbers on the slides. We will correct them and send you the revised numbers. We began as a local New Mexico company in 1998 and at that time we served only New Mexico and Arizona. Now we serve the lower 48 states and Alaska. We cater to your needs. We pulled the deliverables from the request for proposal and have worked on them over the past four months. We analyzed your policies and appraised the labor market online. We measured benefits and incentives. We recommend some policy improvements. Charlene (County Manager Webb), Renae (Human Resources Specialist Calloway) and their team helped us have a wonderful interaction."

Jackson said the end goal for the study is "we want Grant County to be internally and externally competitive."

She noted the county has 160 employees. "We looked at salary surveys and scoped it down to size, location and industry. We also looked at similar employers. No organization is exactly the same as Grant County. Some positions are harder to replace and may shift quickly. Our goal is always to compare like-to-like. We studied each job and when they had applied. To apply a match, we pulled in salary and looked internally. We recommend grade levels from 74 to 12. Best practice gives every job a grade. The proposed structure gives what should be paid and how much change is made as they grow with experience. In the cost impact survey, we found that 68 employees are paid less than the minimum. We recommend an increase to the minimum. That will cost you $309,000. This cost is base salary and does not include taxes and benefits. We propose a compensation highway, with the mid-point as market value. This is an opportunity to move salaries up. It will ensure that you are externally competitive and meeting one of the two goals internally. But you have employees that bring all sorts of different things to the table, because of experience, education, qualifications, and we reward them by paying them differently. Bringing them all to the minimum, which is the bottom solid line on the compensation highway will lose some of the distinction you currently have. We want to reduce compression, which limits the difference between the salary bands. We want employees to be distinctly paid and rewarded. To ensure both goals of external competition and internal consistency will cost about $400,000 more, for a total of about $700,000. We recommend you tackle it in phases, with Phase 1 bringing everyone up to minimum."

She said there were several different ways to address compression. "We give you the tools with a salary calculator to use for objective salary decisions. As you move toward balance, all focus should be on base pay salaries."

DeFilippis said they looked at the county's benefits and incentives. "Compared to public and private organizations, Grant County leads on benefits. When we looked at the total compensation, the base pay plus benefits plus incentives, you have an exceptional program. We recommend an implementation strategy to determine feasibility of the plan when it is approved. We will also meet with most of you this afternoon to address compression and Phase 2. No one falls above the maximum, and we do not recommend going above the maximum. We hope this structure will serve you for years, and we offer tools to maintain the plan."

Jackson noted that the ranges are built on best practices.

District 5 Commissioner Harry Browne asked if Valiant had received the Sheriff's proposal. Webb said she had not provided it to them.

District 4 Commissioner Billy Billings said it needed to be said that there had been a lot of public discussion about the Grant County Sheriff's office. "I support you, all of you in the GCSO. I have been impressed with the GCSO professionalism, and I am also cognizant of the increasing dangers. The county manager and we commissioners have been working on a compensation plan for months. We have consistently wanted to put in raises. Those of you who have heard that there will be zero raises, please know that is absolutely false."

District 3 Commissioner Alicia Edwards said the county had done a salary survey. "It was like wading through mud. I think this is absolutely fantastic and easily readable and understandable. It is hopeful for me to address issues, especially the compression issues. Thank you so much for this report."

"I think in July, we will ask you to adopt this plan," Webb said. "It is in the budget to address bringing everyone up to minimum. Over the next year, we will address compression. Will this address the Grant County Sheriff's Office? Yes."

District 1 Commissioner and Chair Chris Ponce said: "We've heard loudly complaints about the last salary plan. A lot of the directors were not happy with it. I'm glad you mentioned labor standards, as my goal is before you go into detailed talks about it, we have to understand it. I support the unions. My father fought hard for them. At this point and with union negotiations coming up, we don't want to violate labor standards. The board does have to watch the budget. Where are we at in union negotiations?"

Webb said the union has agreed to review this plan. "And yes, salary is part of the negotiations."

Ponce noted that last year, the commissioners offered a 3 percent raise. "We have to be there for every county employee. It's looking at balance and looking at the budget. I hope county employees take the time to understand this plan."

Browne asked if this plan would require scraping the GCSO step plan and received a nodded confirmation. "You said we lead or exceed in benefits. Is there some way we can add in the benefits so employees know about them?"

DeFilippis said the compensation highway is based on base pay. "I'm not sure if there is a way to include benefits. We offer a tool to show how much the county pays in benefits. You can communicate that when you offer a job or when morale is low."

Browne said he has liked the county paying 100 percent of health insurance, "but if we are in position where we have to match salaries, we may have to consider cutting the percentage of 100 percent insurance."

DeFilippis said: "It may be important for you to learn what the employees value. Some employees value the benefits more than others."

Edwards said: "I'm also heading that way to consider cutting benefits. I suggest a breakdown on what the employees get. We're way ahead in retirement and health insurance. We maybe need to re-evaluate our benefits package. It appalls me to be thinking this way, as I've always been 100 percent supportive of the 100 percent health insurance paid by the county on behalf of the employees. I looked at insurance and it can be $1,300 a month just for insurance. If we went to 25-75 on the insurance, when you look at the exchanges' plans, the employee would still have to pay $500 for an ER visit or $500 for an ambulance ride."

"I hope our employees would understand that health insurance goes up each year," Ponce said. "If we went to 25-75, it would be a shock to the employees. You would see your paycheck drop with each health insurance increase. I hope our employees would realize that each raise in the insurance premium that the county pays is a raise for them. I wouldn't support not having 100 percent."

Edwards agreed that people would be shocked if they traded away the insurance for base pay.

District 2 Commissioner Eloy Medina said the county has a great package. "This plan is very good. At the hospital, I pay $300 each pay period for my insurance there. We've heard support from the employees on the county insurance plan. I support this compensation plan."

Under new business, Pinos Altos Volunteer Fire Department Chief Ed Downard said the consideration of the Archis Architects LLC contract for design of the North Swam Street Pinos Altos Volunteer fire station is a move toward construction of the station. "This is the design part."

Procurement Officer Veronica Rodriguez said this contract only needs to be approved by the commissioners, with no need to go out for bid.

Downard said it is just part of the process. "Payment for this contract is the first step in the NMFA (New Mexico Finance Authority) loan, which will be paid out of our annual fire funds receipts."

Billings asked if Downard was familiar with this firm.

"Yes, and they oversee all construction," Downard said.

Webb explained payment of the loan will be drawn out of the State Fire Fund set aside for the PAVFD.

Edwards said seeing oversight through construction is good.

"This contract approves the lump sum of this entire contract," Webb said. "There is no Phase 2."

Commissioners approved the contract.

They then considered an inter-governmental agreement between the New Mexico Department of Public Safety and the Grant County Sheriff's Office to use DPS Trax software, which provides for electronic transfer of citation, etc. so everything is all in one place.

Commissioners approved the agreement.

A resolution addressed the acceptance of the Freeport-McMoRan drone devices equipment to the GCSO.

Rodriguez said the equipment will help the GCSO with search and rescue.

Commissioners approved the donation.

The second resolution addressed approving the updated debt service schedule for the $1,084,911 NMFA public project revolving fund loan [for the construction of the PAVFD North Swan station] and use of the updated debt service schedule in the loan agreement, intercept agreement and pledge revenue certificate and other documents pertaining to such loan.

Luis Carrasco of Rodey Law Firm said the loan from NMFA, "we learned last week that due to the transfer of state fire funds, it could not meet the debt service schedule with payment every May 1, starting in 2024 and ending in 2053. We needed a whole year, after we approved the loan. So it changes to May 1, 2025-May 1, 2054. It increases the total payment by $35,000, but it's all coming from state funds. I feel comfortable making this change. The loan closes this Friday."

Edwards protested: "I think it's just wrong that the state Treasurer's office couldn't accommodate a vote on this, which we took in May."

Carrasco said he didn't see any inclination for the state to adjust by a few days.

Browne asked how the $35,000 was added in. "Is it spread out over the life of the loan?"

"Yes," Carrasco said. "Because the first payment won't be made until 2025."

Browne noted the interest rate is low and is actually below inflation.

Edwards again protested the lack of cooperation from the state.

Carrasco said he appreciated comments from Browne and Edwards. "To Commissioner Edwards, that was my reaction, too. It's not ideal, but it still works for the county."

Commissioners approved the resolution.

Billings asked why the last two payments had zero interest. "Why is the interest rate flexible? Sometimes, it's down to 2 percent and up to 4 percent."

Carrasco said the loan is at a lower interest rate to start with, but "due to volatility, this is their best guess on what the interest rates will be. It will not change if rates go up or down, so it's not a variable rate. The rate is set in the schedule. The county may consider re-financing if economic reality would benefit."

Browne said he sees it as 30 different loans.

Carrasco noted that the NMFA has a mandate to make these project possible for local entities.

The commissioners recessed as the board of commissioners and convened as the Grant County Health Care Claims board to approve a $600 payment to Baca's Funeral Chapel for an indigent burial.

Reconvening as the board of commissioners, members gave reports. Billings had none.

Medina noted an upcoming meeting in Mimbres to talk about the senior center and proposed clinic. "I thank the county manager for these discussions."

Edwards said she wanted to acknowledge the hard work of the manager and HR staff on the compensation plan. "I appreciate that it is something understandable that will go a long way to keeping county employees happy. I reiterate that I am in no way in favor of reducing benefits. We need to have a hard conversation about the fact that the costs of the county are going up faster than are the revenues. We are taking on a recurring cost that is critical. We need a plan to manage it."

Browne said he had had cause to be in and out of the hospital here and all three hospitals in Las Cruces. "By far, the best experience has been right here at Gila Regional Medical Center. It's quiet, an attractive room, great service and so far, positive results."

Ponce said: "We are all on the same page with taking care of our county employees. We have one intent for our employees. And you, county manager, do not have an easy job. We appreciate all you do!"

The meeting adjourned.

Content on the Beat

WARNING: All articles and photos with a byline or photo credit are copyrighted to the author or photographer. You may not use any information found within the articles without asking permission AND giving attribution to the source. Photos can be requested and may incur a nominal fee for use personally or commercially.

Disclaimer: If you find errors in articles not written by the Beat team but sent to us from other content providers, please contact the writer, not the Beat. For example, obituaries are always provided by the funeral home or a family member. We can fix errors, but please give details on where the error is so we can find it. News releases from government and non-profit entities are posted generally without change, except for legal notices, which incur a small charge.

NOTE: If an article does not have a byline, it was written by someone not affiliated with the Beat and then sent to the Beat for posting.

Images: We have received complaints about large images blocking parts of other articles. If you encounter this problem, click on the title of the article you want to read and it will take you to that article's page, which shows only that article without any intruders. 

New Columnists: The Beat continues to bring you new columnists. And check out the old faithfuls who continue to provide content.

Newsletter: If you opt in to the Join GCB Three Times Weekly Updates option above this to the right, you will be subscribed to email notifications with links to recently posted articles.

Submitting to the Beat

Those new to providing news releases to the Beat are asked to please check out submission guidelines at They are for your information to make life easier on the readers, as well as for the editor.

Advertising: Don't forget to tell advertisers that you saw their ads on the Beat.

Classifieds: We have changed Classifieds to a simpler option. Check periodically to see if any new ones have popped up. Send your information to and we will post it as soon as we can. Instructions and prices are on the page.

Editor's Notes

It has come to this editor's attention that people are sending information to the Grant County Beat Facebook page. Please be aware that the editor does not regularly monitor the page. If you have items you want to send to the editor, please send them to Thanks!

Here for YOU: Consider the Beat your DAILY newspaper for up-to-date information about Grant County. It's at your fingertips! One Click to Local News. Thanks for your support for and your readership of Grant County's online news source—

Feel free to notify if you notice any technical problems on the site. Your convenience is my desire for the Beat.  The Beat totally appreciates its readers and subscribers!  

Compliance: Because you are an esteemed member of The Grant County Beat readership, be assured that we at the Beat continue to do everything we can to be in full compliance with GDPR and pertinent US law, so that the information you have chosen to give to us cannot be compromised.