[Editor's Note: This is the fifth of a series of articles on the Grant County Commission work session on March 12, 2024. It continues the county reports.]

By Mary Alice Murphy

The next county report at the Grant County Commission work session on March 12, 2024 came from Planning Director Randy Hernandez.

Current projects include items funded by Colonias:

Little Walnut Road Phase 1 construction, from Trail Ridge to Tanglewood Circle, is at 98 percent completion, with completion expected by early April 2024;
Crum Road design phase is in progress;
Franks Road design phase is in progress; and
North Hurley Road Phase 3 construction - working on obtaining temporary work permits from property owners, with a bid release by April or May 2024.

Current projects funded by the Department of Finance and Administration include:

Bataan Memorial Park Veterans Walking Path which has received no bids;
Hamilton Bridge replacement design is 30 percent complete, with anticipated completion by June 2024;
Bataan Memorial Park small field turf replacement - working with the Public Works director to secure cost estimate and secure contractor;
Capacity support: The county has contracted with Incite Network, working toward strategic planning priorities for the volunteer fire departments; and
Conference Center computer lab and audio/visual upgrades - working with IT director to obtain quotes for equipment.

The New Mexico Department of Transportation is funding two current projects:

Fleming Tank Road improvements - construction is 98 percent complete, pending pole removal by PNM and seeding. Final completion expected by the end of March 2024; and
Truck Bypass Road construction is 90 percent complete, with culvert having been constructed and final paving taking place, with completed expected early April 2024.

Other current projects include:

Courthouse needs assessment, with a presentation scheduled for March 26. 2024 work session;
EDA grant for free workforce development trainings, with registration open. and an RPF (request for proposal) is open to secure professional services for an update to the County Comprehensive Plan;
Old jail brownfields project bid is currently open to secure a contractor for asbestos abatement;
Upper Mimbres VFD underground water storage tanks bid has been received and is on the agenda for award; and
Code enforcement quarterly report for October-December 2023 is attached and will come after the completion of the Planning Director report.

Future projects for the department include:

Ridge Road improvements, Phase 2 construction of 0.85 miles, with an estimated cost of $2.3 million, with Colonias Infrastructure Fund application under consideration;
Arenas Valley Road improvements, Phase 2 construction on 1.3 miles at an estimated cost of $3.5 million, also applied for under Colonias; and
A third application to Colonias for Little Walnut Road improvements, Phase 2 construction on 2.58 miles at an estimated cost of $6.8 million; and
Comprehensive plan update.

District 1 Commissioner and Chair Chris Ponce said he gets asked often if the county has heard when the 32nd Street construction in Silver City will be finished.

District 2 Commissioner Eloy Medina said the latest he has heard is by the end of April.

District 3 Commissioner Alicia Edwards said: "I, as one who cycles on Little Walnut Road, I want to say what a nice job you're doing up to where is it not yet completed."

Hernandez agreed and said the next phase will be from Tanglewood to just beyond the picnic area and trailhead.

Edwards said she also wanted to acknowledge what "great things you are doing for Grant County and on the walking path for the Bataan veterans walking path."

Hernandez said the walking path has to be ADA-compliant and will be paved with lighting on the path.

District 5 Commissioner Harry Browne asked what the timeline would be for the continuation of the Little Walnut construction if all goes well with the Colonias application.

Hernandez said it would probably begin sometime in March to May 2025.

Edwards expressed her dismay at the cost being more than $2 million a mile on Little Walnut. "When we started, it was expensive at $1 million per mile."

The written Code Enforcement Officer quarterly report cites 19 existing case from the previous reporting period, with six new cases in the current reporting period. She has resolved 43 cases and has 25 active cases under consideration. The cases include 16 in Arenas Valley, two in Cliff/Gila, four in Hanover, one on Highway 90 South, seven in Indian Hills, seven in Mimbres, six in North Hurley, and two in the Ridges. A map showed the locations where code enforcement has made site visits.

The next report under Public Works came from Rebekah Wenger, Grant County Airport manager.

"I'm very happy the fuel tank farm project is done," Wenger said."The testing went well and the state Department of Environment signed off on it and cleared our notice of violation. As part of the project, the contractor had our existing tanks inspected for a full clean bill of health for the facility. We now have 24,000 gallons of tank storage capacity."

She said the fire base would open on that Friday, March 15, for which the airport brings in another 5,000-gallon refueler for the fire season. "All our employees are certified for fueling. We also updated our emergency plan, which has been approved by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). We want to put art in the terminal to celebrate the Gila Wilderness Centennial."

She also noted that airport staff had recycled asphalt millings from previous airport projects to make a parking area for the new administrative facility at 182 Airport Road.

Corey White presented the Fleet Maintenance report for February. "We completed 26 PMs (preventive maintenance), with 20 for the sheriff's vehicles, five for the road department and 1 for facility (?), 27 involved diagnose and repair, with 11 for the sheriff's department, 12 for the road department, two for Corre Caminos and one facility maintenance. Seven units had tire replacement, three for the sheriff and four for the road department, and there were two dealership warranty repairs, one for the manager's office and one for the sheriff. One windshield was removed and reinstalled and the HVAC had to be replaced because of the windshield leak.

March projects include PM for Road Department heavy equipment in preparation for chip-sealing season. "We continue to gather quotes for a drive-on vehicle lift and shop vehicles. We plan to acquire new fuel transfer tanks for new blade operator pickups arriving in April. CPR training is planned but no date is set. On March 18, we will move to a 4:10 schedule."

Ponce commended the fleet maintenance for doing a good job.

Edwards noted it was great to get a fleet maintenance department report.

Jason Lockett, facilities and grounds maintenance supervisor, said the back bathrooms project behind the Commission Chambers is 80 percent complete. The Courthouse fire alarm install is 100 percent complete. "We are working on level 3 P.M.s for generators at the Detention Center, Dispatch Authority and airport."

"We are working on installing a concrete ramp on the north side of the Courthouse for easier access to the sounds, and getting Bataan fields back into shape for upcoming practices and tournaments," Lockett said. "At Bataan, we are repainting gates, fences and structures and that is 90 percent complete."

Future projects include the laundry room washer upgrade and reconfiguration at the Detention Center, as well as the Bataan Memorial Park electrical service upgrade to the Pavilion and the installation of vault toilets. "We plan ceiling tile replacement at Ace Hardware, the manager's office break room remodel and reconditioning the arena dirt at the Fairgrounds. Detention Center door sliders/closures are being replaced in March when staffing levels can accommodate."

He also noted that the Shooting Range last year had 3700 shooters, including 4-H shooting practice and competition and community shooters.

Ponce said it seems like a lot of work is being done in-house, which is saving the taxpayers a lot of money.

Medina noted there are issues with the baseball fields at Cliff. "Maybe you can get better preparation for them for practices."

Locket said he would get it prepared.

Ponce said he thought the county had received extra money that can do more out at Cliff. "I know our county manager is working with Silver Schools, but I'm not sure when the money is coming in."

Road Department Supervisor Joe Grijalva presented his report. "We've gotten a couple of culverts set this week on Little Walnut Roads and we can possibly cap the road next week."

He reportedDEI was laying asphalt on the southeast side of the culvert on Truck Bypass Road, with final paving completed by the end of the week.

Grijalva said Southwest Concrete and Paving expected to have all paving done on Little Walnut by the following week. Fleming Tank Road is near completion, waiting for pole placement by PNM, rip-rap repair and seeding. He said the road department would be doing routine patching on various roads that week, and would continue trimming trees on chip-seal project roads. They also plan to resume the special project on Noonday. He and his staff would attend a pavement preservation workshop by SinClair in Ruidoso on April 2 and 3, 2024.

The final report came from County Manager Charlene Webb, who said the bargaining unit arbitrator had pulled out of the process due to a health issue. "We can choose another arbitrator or choose one from the panel or we could come to an agreement with the union. I wanted to let you know exactly what happened so all the rumors weren't flying around about what happened with arbitration that was supposed to occur later this month."

On the legislative session, Webb said she wouldn't belabor her legislative update, due to that presented by Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill earlier in the meeting. "One bill I was tracking that I was disappointed to see was pocket vetoed was House Bill 175 that would be very similar to the law enforcement retention and recruitment funding we've had for a couple of years. This would have provided the retention and recruitment and would have included correctional officers, but unfortunately it was pocket vetoed. I wanted to let you know that we received a $30,000 grant from the Outdoor Recreation Division for an outdoor marketing grant. We will be working with SkyWest Media on the marketing campaign. It was started through the Conference Center with the theme. 'Meet in the Gila' to promote booking the conference center. But this grant will focus more on bringing people here to play in our backyard. We asked for $30,000, and we got $30,000, so that was exciting. Another grant I just found out about is the Destination Forward grant. It could be used for renovations and updating of conference centers, civic centers, fairgrounds and the like. So my mind went to trying to get some funds to update the conference center, which is getting a bit dated and worn out. I hope to get the application done in a timely fashion so we can go after these funds."

She said she also wanted to let the commissioners know that "we were able to hire a fire chief. We selected Roger Gross, who will start later this month."

Browne congratulated the county for the $30,000 grant for outdoor recreation. "The town of Silver City also asked for $30,000 and got $15,000, and they were told there was twice as much demand as funding, so well done."

The next article will get into the review at the work session of the regular meeting agenda and decisions made at the March 14, 2024 regular meeting.

To read the previous articles, please visit https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/83233-grant-county-commission-holds-work-session-031224-part-1 ; https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/83277-grant-county-commission-holds-work-session-031224-part-2  ; https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/83348-grant-county-commission-holds-work-session-031224-part-3 ; and https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/83364-grant-county-commission-holds-work-session-031224-part-4 

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