By Lynn Janes

The Silver City Town Council held a regular meeting February 13, 2024. Attendance to the meeting included Mayor Ken Ladner, council members included Nicholas Prince, Guadalupe Cano, Rudy Bencomo, and Stan Snider (phone).

Council comments

Snider said he had been contacted by a few residents that rents have been increasing faster in Silver City. He suggested some form of stabilization that would be fair. He had researched state statues and they prohibit rent control. A bill had been introduced last year and this year to revoke that, both failed. "I have asked our representatives to support it next year." He also asked the tenants downtown if they thought the rents had been fair. "I do not see this as a councilor being a disparaging statement but a part of my duties." On another note, he addressed the Grant County Senior Village and said it would be a great program.

Prince said the last month had been a whirlwind. The legislature was hectic, but he has excitement for the opportunities of many projects and funding coming to the community. He said it had been the best session since he started. He attended the Municipal League conference and the president of the league said before he came in, he had gotten an email that simply said "idiot." No matter what we do we are criticized." On his way to Santa Fe, he had gotten a call from the Silver City Police Department advising him he had received a criminal trespass warning. Prince said he had no knowledge of the address or an idea of what it was about. "There is no evidence, and it is a baseless accusation."

Bencomo wanted to extend his condolences to the family and friends of the Las Cruces police officer killed in the line of duty recently. Fire Chief Lambert had asked Bencomo to attend the banquet for the fire department. He enjoyed the event and was glad to see the recognition of many fire department employees.

Bencomo attended the "Monday Coffee with the Mayor." He listened to a lot of people, but many had been from around the country, and he would like to see the local people that come from here attend and voice their concerns.

Cano said she had received a lot of calls concerning the recent newspaper articles and asked what the council has been working on. " Just because a councilor is working on something does not mean the other council members are." Because of quorums and the open meetings act they cannot work on projects together unless done in a meeting for all to hear.

In the last meeting they had been given the recommendation to approve two appointments to planning and zoning. Some on the council had a problem with one. She would like to see a policy that anyone coming up for appointment be present at the meeting and available for questions from the council in the future.

Cano thanked all that made sure the Territorial Ball event was made ADA accessible.

Last week Cano attended the legislature in Santa Fe. She has also been on the lieutenant governor's disability council. The committee had been asked to help make the round house accessible and within a few days much of it had been implemented. By next year it would be more accessible. Cano said, "I was quoted in many papers around the state but not in the Silver City Daily Press."

Ladner thanked everyone involved in the 146th year of the territorial charter event.

Ladner said he sees "Monday with the Mayor" as being an advocate for the community members. "I don't try to solve anything, but I meet with the town manager and see what can be done."

Public input

Bill Woodward said he sells the town water from the Woodward wellfield. His family has been in the area since 1882. In 1958 they started selling water to the town. They did a price increase in 1967 and have never raised the price since. He asked to be put on the agenda for the next meeting to discuss the contract price. He feels it has been a little unfair being stuck at the 1967 price. He gave the example that one dollar in 1967 adjusted for today's inflation should be $9.12.

Gail Stanford said she lived three quarters of a mile from the new housing development, Vista De Plata. She asked the council to be creative and incorporate parks and trails. They had the chance to make it a special neighborhood and a showcase. It can be a contribution to the community. She asked they be kept them up to date with the planning.

Zelda Woodward continued the discussion on the Woodward water field and sale of water to the town. She asked how many times the town had raised the price of water on the residents.

Brian Stengel, New Mexico Recovery Coalition, recently has started a collaboration with the New Mexico Health and Human Services Department, New Mexico AIDS Partnership and Candles in the Wind to bring free training to learn more about how to deal with the LGBTQ community. He brought a flyer to the council for the event. He gave them a description of the event and who would be involved.

David Stapp asked the council when they would be live-streaming the meetings. He said many people have been interested. He added he had done a little bit of independent investigation on the recent articles about the two council members that had been characterized as less than fully honoring their duties to their constituents. He would be curious what comes about since it is at odds with what council persons say here. "I am eager to see council members honoring their dedication to constituents and not stirring the pot where it is not necessary."

Mick Smith wanted to address Black History Month and Juneteenth. She went over the history of the events and provided an opportunity for learning. New Mexico recognizes Juneteenth as a holiday. "I would like to see the town recognize it and make it a paid holiday.

New Business

David Chandler, The Commons, addressed the council to give an update and projection of expectations for 2024. He thanked the town for their continued support and went over all the ways they had helped. Two years ago, the city had donated $10,000. He said the need for their services has become unprecedented. They have been serving more families and homeless than ever before. Currently 800 households a month which he said translated to 750,000 pounds of food, a 65 percent increase in the past 12 months. The need has greatly increased.

Jennifer Metzler takes care of the school programs, and she thanked the police and code enforcement for all their help at The Commons. They have seen a drastic increase in the needs at the schools for their services.

The Commons' mission has been to meet the immediate needs of the families, but the other had been to build resiliency to help eliminate the need. However, they spend most of their time with the immediate need. They would like to build partnerships to address building up resiliency. Chandler wanted to expand programs that build youth leadership, engaging the youth, internship, job skills, etc.

Chandler told the council they have started a new virtual volunteer website. A person will be able to go to the site and see who needs volunteers. They will have 65 nonprofits represented. The site will be able to match people, skills, and resources. They would hear more about it in a few months. He again thanked the town for all their support.

Bencomo asked them where they obtained the food given out. Chandler said most they received from Roadrunner Food Bank and pay ten cents on the dollar. They also buy on the local market and from local growers.

Laura Aubrey of the housing, and behavioral health taskforce had a power point presentation for the council and a packet with information. The organization provides community-centered solutions to complex challenges. Aubrey pointed out that last year behavioral health and the homeless had been the hot topic. Many came together and several task forces had been started with similar efforts. They needed a clear vision and mission to be here for the long term. The organization will not be for direct services but to offer a way to connect to local resources. They meet two times a month and have four committees that meet more often. The four committees they have currently consist of advocacy and education, law enforcement, street outreach and basic needs. Aubrey said her presentation would be available to anyone and said they could be contacted at hbhtaskforce@gmailcom or 575-519-4322

Cano said she knew they had put a lot of hard work into the organization. She did have a concern she wanted to voice. "I don't see the residents served any way on this and they were the ones who originally brought this problem out. I don't see a community neighborhood group listed with you and they have been the ones that suffered greatly in the past 3-4 years with no representation. They need the respect and help. You don't even mention them. The people that started this need to be heard from." Cano said this has been a big concern for people in her district. Aubrey said she would like to talk to her more. "We care about the neighborhood, and this is just the beginning."

Bencomo pointed out that the neighborhood had a lot of issues and needed to be involved. Aubrey said maybe they needed a separate committee for the neighborhood.

Ladner brought up that this had all started with "Monday Coffee with the Mayor." About 30 people had come to him, most from downtown, and had been experiencing harassment and other issues. They had a lot of concern. The downtown businesses had become afraid of the homeless. The police then started to have patrols downtown and would stop in at the business and it seemed to alleviate the problem.

The council approved resolution 2024-03. This authorizes the mayor to negotiate and execute a new contract for employment between the town and Alex Brown. Brown's contract will be up November 2024. At that time, he had planned to retire. He had been asked to stay for two more years due to the major projects in process currently so they could keep the cohesion and keep them running smoothly. Brown agreed to stay on for two more years. The projects referred to would be the recreation center, regional water project and Vista De Plata housing development.

Cano said in spite of the problems she has had in the past with Brown, she had come to realize the importance of his being here to finish these projects.

Ladner said the last year Brown works they will have someone hired to work with him, so they have an easy transition.

Meeting adjourned.

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