By Lynn Janes

The town of Bayard held a work session and regular meeting November 27, 2023. Attendance included Mayor Chon Fierro, councilors, Frances Gonzales, Eloy Gonzales, Jose Diaz, and Eloy Medina. Gabriel Ramos, city clerk, also attended.

The work session allows the council to ask questions about items on the agenda.

The council questioned the attendance to the court educational institute for newly elected judge Charles Kelly. Ramos said he would be flying to Albuquerque and renting a car. The Judges Association would pay for the accommodations. The council questioned him flying and not driving his car and Diaz said it had been done in the past. Medina said they had always driven. Ramos added his flight would cost $62.35 one way. Frances Gonzales commented it would be cheaper to fly and right now they airline company has a 20 percent off on flights. Ramos said he would purchase ten tickets now because of the sale. They would have a year to use those flights and would need them for the upcoming Municipal League conference.

Diaz asked if Kelly had been sworn into office in the 6 days required by the New Mexico Supreme Court rules. Ramos said no he had not. Diaz told them the mayor and council would have to vacate the position immediately because he would not be eligible to serve. They now will have to ask for letters of interest to appoint the position. Diaz said he would get the regulations and show the council. "I have been trying to reach out to him since the election and he has not returned my calls." Diaz has been the current acting judge. He explained the process to the council and showed them the oath requirements in the regulations. Frances Gonzales said he had also not attended any meetings. Kelly had been required to do the oath within 6 days or present an affidavit explaining why he could not. Kelly had not done either of these as of this meeting. Fierro told the council they would have to do a special meeting as soon as possible to vacate the position and appoint someone.

They discussed the situation and decided they could continue with the alternate (Diaz) and Diaz said he would be willing. Last month the court took in $1,400 in fees.

Diaz recommended they contact Paula Consuelo at the New Mexico courts and let her know about the judge elect not swearing in their oath within the required 6 days and the council will be vacating the position.

As of July 1, 2024, the court can no longer collect court fees. Diaz said the Municipal Judges Association recommended they look at policies and ordinances and raise the fees for citations. They had been told to review these by the end of the year, so they had time to post the changes for the public.

The council talked about the surrender box proposed for Bayard. Ramos told the council they would need to get three bids, but the cost would be $3,000 to $10,000. Francis Gonzales said although nothing had happened here in some other rural areas, they had some incidents that almost ended badly. Medina talked to the hospital about having one also. They discussed some of the possible locations.

Regular meeting started.

The council approved the consent agenda that included minutes from October 23, 2023, grant writer report, court of education for newly appointed judge, police report and accounts payable report.

Public input

Robert Whitaker the new CEO of Gila Regional Medical Center addressed the council. "I am excited to be part of the community." He had just purchased a new home. He had spent the last two years working in Gallup but had originally come from Houston and had also worked in Kansas. He expressed some thoughts about GRMC and said, "It is a community hospital." The hospital serves a large area and population, and his goal would be to meet those needs. The hospital has seen a lot of struggles in the past several years and a lot had been done and changed. "Financially the hospital is okay right now, not great but okay." He commented, "It is a busy little hospital and I want to be involved in the communities." The Prospectors meeting will be coming up and the hospital would be asking for funds for new equipment. He said the building is old but in good shape.

Fierro said they have had problems keeping doctors and did he have a way to solve that problem. Whitaker said he will be looking at ways to retain and attract physicians but said they had a good group now. Frances Gonzales said she had something positive to say about the hospital. She praised the clinic for heart disease. The lab also can do specialized tests that could not be done before and saves people having to travel out of town. She did add that the doctors needed to be trained on how to view and handle chronic disease and not brush it off. Diaz recounted a recent visit he had with a family member needing services at the hospital and they had great service, better than in the past.

A resident in attendance asked how they coordinated and made decisions when flying people out. Whitaker said he had only been here four weeks and didn't have that information. Medina (who is also EMS director at GRMC) explained the process and how the decisions on the medical facility to fly a patient were made.

Whitaker thanked them for their time and feedback.

Old business

The council approved the restructure of the maintenance department. This just made the parks and recreation come under the maintenance department and not be a separate department.

The council approved the necessary steps to move forward with the installation of a surrender box. They commented it needed to be in an easy access but anonymous area.

New business

Erik Lindgren, co-owner of Tycho Energy, addressed the council. He said he had come from Phoenix and been in the business for seven years. A local resident had become, an employee and they came to the area to do a solar installation and had a great reception from the community. He wanted to introduce the company to the council and let them know the services they provide. Electricity has been increasing all over the country and PNM will be raising their rates 6 percent. Ramos asked him about the strength of the company. In the past people had come in and left. Lindgren said the company has zero debt and continues to grow. The company started with just himself and now they have 35-40 representatives working for them. They have primarily worked in the Phoenix and Tucson area but want to help underserved communities like Bayard. He said the strength of the company really didn't matter because they contract out the work. Ramos said currently they spend $9,000 to $13,000 on electricity for the water treatment plant alone. Lindgren said, "It is my goal to start a relationship and see what you need." Ramos asked him if he would be doing a feasibility study and Lindgren said yes and would do so in on each building because some it would not make sense. He will send them more information.

The council proclaimed the week of November 27, 2023, Dolores Charon week. Ramos read the proclamation. She had served Bayard and worked to bring attention to domestic violence.

Ben Rasmussen, Frontier Food Hub, introduced himself to the council. He had also come with Elysha Montoya, community engagement coordinator. They have been a nonprofit organization since 2018 in southwest New Mexico. The organization has generated over $1 million for local farmers and ranchers. Most have been small local producers. Already in 2023, they have generated over a half million in sales for local producers. He said the organization started with just himself but now they have eight people working. They had met in September and October to see how they could help the mining district after receiving a grant of $400,000 for a four-year USDA project. A steering committee has been put together currently with seven people from the mining district. Frontier Food Hub will be having a lot of engagement in the community to let people know when they will be having classes for gardening and farming. This will be for the first year and they will expand into a production center to serve Bayard, Hurley, Santa Clara and Mimbres. Infrastructure for the organization will be needed in the area with space for a warehouse and garden. Currently they have space in Silver City on College Street and rent from The Commons.

The next thing on the agenda had to do with starting a discussion about changing the clerk-treasurer position to city administrator. Ramos said Medina had requested putting this on the agenda. Ramos said a city administrator would be a lot like a city manager. It would allow for more rein in the day-to-day operations. If a complaint comes to Ramos, he must wait for the mayor to be able to do anything. "I feel like my hands are tied."

Frances Gonzales said she had spoken to Sheila Hudman, village administrator for Santa Clara. They would still need to have a city clerk and deputy clerk so salaries would have to be considered. "It would not be fair to raise rates to the residents to pay for the additional salary." She also felt this should be put on the table until the mayor-elect comes on in January. Medina said this conversation had started back in July. Frances Gonzales also added that Hudman had told her that this person could not be politically active and so she would not be in favor of the position.

Ramos said they would not have to add another salary it would just change him to a city administrator to be over all the department heads

Diaz commented this had been talked about for a few years and it would have some advantages. It would be a benefit to the mayor, and they would have some consistency. Sometimes the mayor has been gone but the city clerk generally would always be here and would provide a good chain of command. He went over some examples of situations that had happened in the past. Fierro thought it should be looked at. The clerk has a lot of work with the budget alone.

Larry Ojinaga, mayor elect, said they needed to go with the chain of command and asked why they had not used the mayor pro tem when the mayor had not been available. Department heads need to be trained on who to call.

Frances Gonzales said to Ramos, "You have high aspirations and what will it look like when you are gone a lot." Ramos said, "If I win, we can cross that then." Diaz said, "It is about the position and not you."

They continued the discussion if it would continue to be an "at will" position.

The council questioned a $4 hour raise for Tanya Ortiz while she fills in for deputy clerk. She will be doing her regular job as utility clerk and taking on responsibilities as deputy clerk. Frances Gonzales thought it should be $6 an hour because of doing two jobs. Diaz asked how she came to be doing the job and Ramos said he had brought her in when the previous person quit unexpectedly. Diaz questioned how he came up with the $4 and Ramos said it had been done before. Ramos said that this discussion needs to be in executive session because it concerned a personnel matter and not in an open meeting.

The council also moved the grant writing contract extension to the closed session.

The council approved the back pay for police officers' shift differential starting October 7, 2023. The total would be $615 and be paid from the grant.

The council approved the hiring of Isaac Gonzales for the maintenance position.

The council went into closed session

The council came back into open session

Action items

The council approved the $4 an hour raise for Tanya Ortiz to act as deputy clerk until the position has been filled.

The council approved the extension of the contract for grant writing to the end of the fiscal year in June 2024.

Mayor and councilors reports

Medina and Eloy Gonzales did not have any reports.

After Ortiz did some research, she found that the state statute for the 6-day requirement of the judge elect to have taken their oath had been repealed in 2018. No special meeting will be needed, and Kelly has been approved for the class in Albuquerque.

Diaz thanked Ortiz for the research. He wanted to encourage everyone to attend the meeting December 5, 2023, for behavioral health, homeless and mental illness that would be held as a follow up to the Farmington presentation. He thanked the beautification committee for the raffle for turkeys for Thanksgiving and the ones given to the city employees. They will be having a Christmas decoration contest December 18-22,2023 for the best decorated yards and prizes would be given.

Frances Gonzales announced the next planning and zoning meeting on December 7, 2023. Also, they would be having a housing authority meeting on December 20, 2023, at 4:00 pm

Michael Paez, maintenance director, didn't have anything to report except that several thousand tons of millings they received from the county would bed reuse to do some of the dirt roads and repair some roads. They will also use it on a parking lot.

Ramos thanked the county for letting them use a loader to be able to process all the millings to keep up with what they brought in. The canvasing for the election passed and it is official. The city will be doing a presentation to the Prospectors for the ICIP November 30, 2023, and have been asked to also be present for the Grant County Water Commission presentation.

Jenny Castanon, grant writer for Bayard, had an update on the union hall. She had spoken with the director of the Silver City Museum, and they will form a committee to come up with a master plan for the union hall.

Fierro said he and Ramos had gone to Deming to meet with the DOT. They spoke to them about the sidewalk project that must be done by the end of the year or would lose the funding. They also discussed the plans for the welcome sign. DOT had turned it down previously. They changed the plans and now they have accepted it without the benches. They had discussions about the donation of the property to the city. He thanked the maintenance department for putting up all the Christmas lights. They have ordered trees to plant at the depot and cemetery. Fierro thanked all the departments and Castanon for getting the grants.

Ortiz thanked the council for approving her temporary raise and reminded everyone the parade would be December 16, 2023, and they would be handing out candy.

Next regular meeting will be held December 11, 2023

Meeting adjourned.

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