Silver City – Though it's difficult to find a silver lining when it comes to local and state budget woes, one positive outcome is increased collaboration between the Town of Silver City, Grant County government and other local institutions, including Western New Mexico University (WNMU) and Hidalgo Medical Services (HMS). Such partnerships are resulting in better coordination and sharing of resources regionally, which allows important infrastructure and service improvements, despite difficult fiscal challenges.
"The Town is collaborating with Grant County and other local municipalities better than ever," said Alex Brown, Silver City town manager. "The regional water project is a great example of this. We've worked together to get water to all of the municipalities throughout the county. No one entity could have done this alone."
The regional water project was recently recognized for its successful collaboration by the National Development Council. The first phase of the project provides some $9.5 million in infrastructure development to bring water from the Grant County Airport water field to the Town of Hurley, whose current water contract with Freeport McMoRan Inc. (FMI) expires next December. Town officials have been working since 2006 to secure water for the community, and have tied together funds from various government agencies, including the Town of Silver City, which contributed $1.8 million in water rights last year to help complete the project.
Another major community-wide initiative has been years in the making, and is now close to becoming a reality. Tu Casa is a substance abuse rehabilitation center that will fill a much-needed service gap in the region for people and families impacted by substance abuse. Former County Commissioner Ron Hall and the Southwest New Mexico Behavioral Health Consortium were the key drivers of this long-awaited project.
Hidalgo Medical Services (HMS) will manage the center, which is directed by Dr. Neal Bowen, HMS director of mental health services. The new facility is expected to open sometime in late spring of 2018, and will create approximately 19 new jobs, 51 percent of which must be filled by low-to-moderate-income employees, as required by the federal community development block grant program, which is a major source of funding.
Grant County is managing construction of the $2.5 million project, and will own the building located on 5.6 acres of state land, behind existing state offices on 32nd Street. The Town of Silver City has entered into a 25-year lease on the land with the state land office, which starts at $15,260 in the first year, then increases three percent annually. The Town also provided water and sewer infrastructure, valued at nearly $11,000.
"Tu Casa is a wonderful example of what we can do when the community comes together, in spite of our economic challenges," said Mischa Larisch, Grant County planning and community development director. "I can't say enough about what a pleasure it's been to work with town staff, and of course HMS."
Grant-funded street improvements to College Avenue on the south side of the Western New Mexico University (WNMU) campus provided an opportunity for the university to develop a "gateway" to campus, with colored sidewalks, lighting to match the historic-style downtown street lamps, and new landscaping. That project is scheduled for completion by June 2018.
Silver City and Grant County governments also joined forces this year to determine what types of tourism-related initiatives offer the biggest return on investment. Town staff took the lead on the successful FMI grant application, which funds a one-year contract with SkyWest Media. The project is designed to help better understand the impact of tourism throughout the county, and determine how the town and county can best utilize tourism promotion funds to maximize the economic impact of tourism.
"The tourism initiative and certainly Tu Casa are both great examples of local collaboration, which allows us to really maximize resources and provide more services to local residents," said Charlene Webb, Grant County manager. "I am very thankful to have a great partner like the Town of Silver City."