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Photos Courtesy of the rodeo organizers

The 2021 Luna Pioneer Rodeo, held on Saturday, July 24, 2021, drew a large crowd to the tall pines of western New Mexico for rodeo action in a dozen events. The rodeo was dedicated to Corwin Hulsey and Ricky Chavez, who passed this last year and were long time supporters and volunteers of the rodeo. The rodeo, known for a good time and an afternoon cloud burst, was true to its nature and the crowd and participants continued on in the rain and mud.

The rodeo signature event is the wild cow ride. Eight teams competed and the winning team was Sy Westbrook (Vernon, AZ), Cody Westbrook (Vernon, AZ) and Colt Cantrell (Oracle, AZ) with a time of 54.10 seconds.

The egg toss is also another unique rodeo event.

By Roger Lanse

Grant County Sheriff's Office deputies were dispatched to Gila Regional Medical Center on July 20, 2021, in reference to a battery complaint. According to a GCSO press release, when deputies arrived, they had contact with a 25-year-old female who stated that her live-in boyfriend of eight months, Jessie Marquez, 25, of Silver City, struck her.

The release stated a warrant was issued for the arrest of Marquez, charging him with two counts of aggravated battery against a household member, third degree felonies; false imprisonment, a fourth-degree felony; and two counts of aggravated battery on a household member, misdemeanors.

The sheriff's office is asking anyone with information on the whereabouts of Marquez to notify law enforcement by calling the Grant County Regional Dispatch Authority at (575)388-8840, and not to approach the suspect.

[Editor's Note: This is part 3 and the final article of a multi-part series of articles on the Grant County Commission special meeting of July 20, 2021. This article includes a discussion on an ordinance for recreational cannabis restrictions.]

By Mary Alice Murphy

The first item of new business at the Grant County Commission special meeting on July 20, 2021 addressed the Chief Elected Officials Board.

District 1 Commissioner and Chair Chris Ponce explained that "the board needs confirmation that you appointed me to the board. What's happened is that New Mexico changed the membership and is allowing only seven voting members, who will be county commissioners. New Mexico Counties decided that only seven members would represent rural areas in the southwest section. Mayors are no longer voting members. They can attend but may not vote. We voted in a new chair, which is Anita Hand of Catron County. The vice lead, I believe is from Sierra or Socorro County, somewhere in there. They want the commissioners to confirm or appoint someone. As the board of commissioners, you can vote in a mayor as the voting member. One thing I did not agree with is that the person on the board has to represent all the municipalities, too. So, I, as a member, met with the mayors of Santa Clara, Bayard and Hurley. I haven't had a chance to meet with (Silver City) Mayor (Ken) Ladner. The three mayors, Bauch, Fierro and Stevens, didn't have a problem with me representing them. If you reappoint me, I will try to have meetings with all the mayors to make sure I am letting them know what issues we are looking at and making sure that I am representing them all."

District 3 Commissioner Alicia Edwards said she didn't have a problem "reappointing you, but I would be more comfortable if you had met with Mayor Ladner first."

"I would have, too," Ponce said.

District 5 Commissioner Harry Browne said it made sense to him that Ladner "would totally get it, because if the person appointed has to represent all the municipalities and the unincorporated areas, it makes sense because our constituents live in all those areas."

County Manager Charlene Webb said it is technically the Chief Executive Officers Board, which is a part of the Workforce Development Board.

The commissioners approved the reappointment of Ponce to the Chief Executive Officials Board, which is a component of the Workforce Development board.

Ponce said he would talk to Ladner as soon as he could.

The next item on the agenda was a discussion and possible action regarding Section 12 (Local Control) of the Cannabis Regulation Act.

County Attorney Brad Springer, on contract with Grant County, explained via telephone that the act was 177 pages long and had a lot of parts to it. Section 12 provides a simplistic authority for the commissioners to develop time and place rules, among other things like distances from schools. "For consumption areas there are a lot of options for regulating marijuana. There are also some prohibitions of things that local governments cannot do, with a list of them. For instance, you cannot prohibit a licensee from operating. I want you to know that the Regulation and Licensing Division is encouraging local governments to at a minimum enact or determine a minimum distance between cannabis establishments and schools or day care centers in the community. However, the minimum distance established cannot be more than 300 feet. The second issue the division is pushing if you are going to enact a local control ordinance, the time is now, because Sept. 1 marks the opening day for producers to apply for their licenses. We don't know or I don't know yet how long the application process takes, but if you don't have your local control ordinance by that time, the licensee will be grandfathered in and cannot be forced to relocate. I don't know what your thoughts on moving forward with an ordinance, whether more restrictive or less restrictive."

Springer said he had sent a lot of information to the commissioners. "For example, Santa Fe County has already drafted its ordinance. There are a number of things to take into account. One option I thought of, is as I am prepared to draft an ordinance, I would appreciate some guidance on what direction you think you would like to go in term of highly restrictive or minimally so. My suggestion is to address it sooner rather than later." He said he didn't know how long the process takes from the time of application to produce until it is approved, but he believes the effective date for the licensee would be the date for grandfathering a producer.

District 2 Commissioner Javier "Harvey" Salas asked if the ordinance is just for licenses to grow or for usage.

Springer replied that Sept. 1 is the date of application for producers and micro-producers. The application date for consumption areas and retailers is January 2022.

Edwards read from the letter Springer sent them saying that given the time to draft, hold hearings and such on ordinances, counties may face grandfathering in the early applicants. "So, if we pass something in our September meeting, if someone applies on Sept. 1, they will be grandfathered in or do you think because they won't be approved by the time we have the meeting, it will be alright."

Springer said it was his feeling that it was the issuance of the license that would be the effective date. "But I don't know that for sure, because the issue has not been addressed in this state."

Edwards suggested doing a "timely moratorium to avoid that."

Springer said it was an option, but there are mixed feelings among the attorney's affiliate that it might violate state law or "you might lose some people. The precise issue has not been addressed by the courts."

Edwards asked if the right things were in place in the comprehensive plan or would it need to be amended. Springer said he did not believe that the plan needed to be amended.

Browne noted that municipalities can also impose restrictions.

Springer agreed and said the municipalities have more complex decisions to make, although they might have ordinances on things like alcohol and smoking that might be in alignment with restrictions for marijuana.

Browne said it is up to the commission to impose minimum distances from schools for producing or using at no more than 300 feet. "If we don't act is there no state minimum?"

Springer said he would research and would determine whether distances for alcohol, for example, would be governed by state law for cannabis, but the department has said that local governments must determine distances between cannabis establishments and schools.

Edwards asked about regulating air quality around production facilities.

Springer said the Clean Indoor Act and other standards could be used.

"Would we want to follow the strictest laws on the books?" Edwards asked.

Springer said the Santa Fe County draft ordinance has standards for air quality.

More discussion went around in circles about a moratorium and whether it was defensible or not, and Springer finally said with the drafting of the ordinance and the hearing requirements, it would be at least six weeks until the ordinance was in place. In the end, he did not recommend a moratorium, because he thinks it might conflict with the law.

Webb said she and Springer were on a call about the issue the previous week and it all depends, according to every attorney. They said: "We just don't know."

Browne asked to take a moratorium off the table and asked Springer to draft an ordinance.

Springer said he could have it within a week or so. Ponce, to laughter, said: "The meeting might still be going on."

Browne reiterated the issues as the distance from schools, the air quality/odor issues and smoking marijuana outdoors.

As it was Webb's last meeting Ponce said to her: "This was all staged to keep you here longer."

Billings said to Webb: "You taught me a lot. I think the staff will miss you."

Salas said what he respected the most about Webb was: "You have kept us compliant."

Browne said to Webb "I really appreciate your professionalism. Good luck in Sierra County, and if you see any potential for collaboration, please let us know."

Edwards said: "Thank you. We are really going to miss you."

No one had commissioners' reports, and they went directly into executive session to discuss limited personnel matters regarding the county manager. The chair told the Beat he did not expect any action to be taken following the executive session.

[Editor's Note: This is part 2 of what is anticipated to be a multi-part series of articles on the Grant County Commission special meeting of July 20, 2021.]

By Mary Alice Murphy

Grant County Financial Officer Linda Vasquez presented the information on the fiscal year 2022 to the commissioners at the special meeting on July 20, 2021, which replaced the regular work session.

"We developed a budget for fiscal year 2022," Vasquez said. "We ended up with a beginning balance of $4,308,588, which is really good. Everything else is the same as the preliminary budget. I did put in a 3 percent increase in salaries for all regular employees excluding the sheriff's office, with a couple of options. [Editor's Note: The Sheriff's Department has already received a step up raise due to past decisions.] The raise can be done with one of two options. One column shows the preliminary budget; another column what the departments requested; and an additional column with the 1½ percent going into effect in July and another 1½ percent being done in January. Also, an increase to the medical insurance, which is a 16 percent increase for the renewal to take place in January. I calculated 8 percent for the rest of this fiscal year, but keep in mind that we will have to add the 8 percent for the next fiscal year, so it will cover the whole calendar year. We did receive an additional $200,000 in PILT [payment in lieu of taxes by the federal government for untaxed federal land in the county], so I added that amount and budgeted $2.2 million for PILT for fiscal year 2022. I wasn't very conservative with revenues this time, but I have to say that our budget benefited from all the CARES funds that we got due to the pandemic. The clerk's office received a lot of funds, so we didn't have to use General Fund moneys for a lot of their expenses. They received about $300,000, and the manager's office and commissioners received about $200,000. So ,what I need to know is what the commissioners want me to do to have this final budget ready to approve on July 27 to submit the DFA (Department of Finance and Administration)."

Photos by Mary Alice Murphy

On a drizzly and then later steady rainy day, two events caught the eye of this reporter. The rally at the corner of Swan and Silver Heights Boulevard, and just down the street the Woman's Club was hosting a blood drive by Vitalant.

Luna County, NM – On July 22, 2021, at approximately 7:22 a.m., the New Mexico State Police investigated a one vehicle fatal rollover crash on Carzalia Loop, off State Road 9, west of Columbus, NM.

The initial investigation indicates a 2009 Chevy Impala passenger car, driven by Rubi Eloisa Hernandez (19) from Columbus, NM was traveling south on Carzalia Loop. For unknown reasons, the Chevy left the roadway and rolled. Hernandez was ejected from the vehicle and sustained fatal injuries. She was pronounced deceased on scene by the Office of Medical Investigator.

Alcohol was not a factor in the crash and seatbelts were not properly utilized. Speed appears to be a contributing factor in the crash. This crash is under investigation by the New Mexico State Police.

[Editor's Note: This is part one of what is anticipated to be a multi-part series of articles on the Grant County Commission special meeting of July 20, 2021. This article includes the discussion about ARPA funding]

Photo and article by Mary Alice Murphy

gc commiss and webb 3198Outgoing County Manager Charlene Webb, second from right, accepts a plaque from commissioners, from left Harry Browne, Alicia Edwards, Chris Ponce, Billy Billings (in the back) and Javier "Harvey" Salas.

On the date of what would normally be a work session, commissioners called a special meeting for July 20, 2021, so that action could be taken on several agenda items.

District 1 Commissioner and Chair Chris Ponce said the commissioners and county staff wanted to recognize County Manager Charlene Webb for her "outstanding service" to Grant County. He presented her with a plaque.

"I want to thank you for the structure you have built for the directors," Ponce said. "You did a wonderful job running the county and with the budget. When I came on as a commissioner, I was nervous, but you taught me a lot about county government, grants, and projects. We didn't always agree, but I enjoyed that, too, because it opened minds. I respect when you told us that we couldn't do something because of state statute. I always had respect for you. I even offered to buy you horses to get you to stay. Sierra County is lucky to have you."

To download a PDF of the release, please visit the following link: Freeport-McMoRan Reports Second-Quarter And Six-Month 2021 Results

Click Here for a complete listing of Freeport-McMoRan Inc. press releases.

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