[Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles on the Grant County Commission work session on Sept. 12, 2023. This begins with a discussion on newly received property tax rates.]

By Mary Alice Murphy

At the Sept. 14, 2023 Grant County Commission work session, Deputy Assessor Raul Turrieta said he had received from the state of New Mexico the 2023 property tax rate in mills. “It looks just fine. Looking at the increases, in Bayard it increases by 2 mills because of the construction bond for Cobre Consolidated Schools. In 1 In and 1 Out, they are pretty much the same, with residential slightly up and commercial the same.”

With no questions, the commissioners went into county reports, with the first report given by Detention Center Administrator Joseph Andazola. He reported two new officers in training, with three officer openings, but he had interviewed five for the vacant positions. “We hired Dezinae Salas to fill the presumptive eligibility position. She started Monday, Sept. 11, 2023. She was in training yesterday and we plan to bring her to introduce her when she is comfortable in the position.”

On detention center population, he said Aug. 31 saw 67 detainees in the facility, with the average daily population in August at 86.

In the R.I.S.E. program, Andazola reported 11 participants August, with five in the facility and six in the community.

Future projects for the Detention Center include implementation of the field training program (FTO) for all staff. “We got an officer out of state Corrections, and he will serve as FTO officer. Ninety percent of our staff is pretty brand new, so we will look at daily observation reports, so they use what they learned in the classroom in their daily duties. We want to be more prepared when accreditation comes around.

“Because of the hard water, we get mildew, so we will also begin resealing and painting of shower areas in all pods and areas of the facility,” Andazola continued. “In past years along about October, our population drops into the 60s, even 50s and 40s, so we are hoping to see drops in population, so we can close down pods for maintenance work.”

He noted the Heroes Campaign begins this month, and it runs until the end of November. “I appreciate (County Manager) Charlene Webb for letting us participate in that. We have Lt. Rios and Officer Dustin Gnader participating. They will go to Albuquerque to particpate. We will do a media blitz to explain what they do and some of the difficulties of the job. I think it is a great opportunity to bring awareness of the job and address some of the misconceptions. It’s also a great recruiting tool. I thank the county staff for helping us keep our staffing levels up, so we are almost fully staffed.”

“We mentioned last month a portable modular building that we are looking at,” Andazola said. We looked at the one that is empty in Hachita. It’s pretty much brand new, so we are looking for funding to get it transported here to use with RISE and some of our other programs. I will work out the details with Charlene and Linda (Vasquez, financial officer).”

He said he has been named to serve on the New Mexico Adult Detention Standards Council, which will meet Sept. 13, 2023 and he will participate in the development of standards for accreditation. “I will learn a lot as we work toward our own accreditation. Next week we have the accreditation audit with Roadrunner Medical Services. If all goes well, I will schedule a meeting with Charlene to discuss accreditation. We are also working on our 5-year plan.”

District 1 Commissioner and Chair Chris Ponce said he had a comment and a hint. “I appreciate what you’re doing with the Heroes Campaign. Maybe other departments can follow your lead.”

The next report came from Planning Director Randy Hernandez, who listed all the current projects.

They include:

Arenas Valley Road (Design): Preliminary/Final design in progress, with scheduled completion October 2023. (funded by Colonias, $302K) Entire Road, 2.56 Miles
• Bataan Park Veterans Memorial Access Road: Village granted
preliminary approval. Easement area has been staked, pending
approval from County to get an easement plat and then agreement between the County and the Village. (County Funds)
• Bataan Park Veterans Memorial Walking Path: Design near 50% completion. (Governor Allocation, $300K)
• Courthouse Needs Assessment: NCA Architects contracted to begin assessment. (County Funds)
• Crum Road (Design): Pending grant/loan agreement. Readiness to Proceed, with items due by October 31. (Colonias)
• Fleming Tank Road Improvements: Currently out to bid. Bids due Sept. 15. Flood prevention project to make improvements to two low water crossings. (NMDOT, $688K)
• Franks Road (Design): Pending grant/loan agreement. Readiness to Proceed items due by October 31. (Colonias)
• Little Walnut Road Phase 1 (Const.): Construction began on July 31 and will continue through December 2023. At 20% completion (Colonias,$2.2M), fromTrail Ridge to Tanglewood Circle.
• North Hurley Road Phase 3 (Const.): Pending grant/loan
agreement. Readiness to Proceed items due by October 31. (Colonias)
• Truck Bypass Road (Const.): Construction set to start on September 18, 2023. Road closure for through traffic. Conducted extensive public notice efforts. (NMDOT, $3.5M)
Old Detention Center Brownfields Project: NMED/County to begin cleanup phase. We are awaiting the sub-grant agreement (NMED)

For future projects, Hernandez noted the Hamilton Bridge replacement project was not funded through a New Mexico Department of Transportation project fund application for $3.57 million, nor was the Ridge Road Phase II construction, for which we applied for $2.2 million, “so we will look for other funding.”

“We haven’t heard on the DFA (Department of Finance and Administration) economic recovery funding for mineral and energy development communities, which is still in review for the Conference Center computer lab and audio/visual equipment for a total of $100,000, nor have we heard on the acquisition of a public safety building for $600,000,” Hernandez said. “We hope to hear within the next month or so.

“In good news, we were awarded DFA federal grant matching funds for the EWP (emergency watershed protection) project match of $1.14 million,” he continued. “And we were awarded DFA Black Fire recovery funds of $1 million, which we will use for Hamilton Bridge design and acequias assistance.”

He noted he had three action items on the agenda, one for the ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) request from WNM Communications for $1 million for broadband/wireless improvements to Fierro and Pinos Altos; a DFA agreement for federal grant matching funds of $1.14 million for match assistance for the EWP award and a DFA agreement for the Black Range Fire recovery funding.”

Hernandez said he would also be participating at the State Fair for the New Mexico Counties Gathering of Counties on Sept. 14.

The next article will continue with county reports.

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