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By Mary Alice Murphy

The financial report was the first major item at the Grant County Commission work session on Nov. 7, 2017, which addressed the review of the regular meeting agenda to be considered on Nov. 9, 2017 at 9 a.m. at the Grant County Administration Center.

Financial Officer Linda Vasquez gave the first quarterly report of the 2018 fiscal year.

The beginning balance of the General Fund on July 1, 2017 was $3,566,077, with revenues to date of $898,485, transfers of ($580,000), expenditures to date of $2,506,119 leaving a cash balance on Sept. 30, 2017 of $1,378,443.

The Road Fund had a beginning balance of $144,108, revenues to date of $182,090, transfers in of $150,000, expenditures of $414,262, leaving a cash balance of $62,935.

The Detention Fund began the fiscal year with $152,730. Revenues to date are $155,105, with transfers of $350,000, and expenditures of $646,350 leaving a cash balance of $11,485.

The expenditure report for the month showed total expenditures of $1,634,324.03, with two payrolls totaling $384,886.28 and extraordinary expenses of $26,167.84 to HCP Systems for September and October medical management services at the Detention Center; $19,723.30 to Fowler Brothers Inc. for road materials; $22,156.28 to Wright Express Fleet Services for Sept. 2017 fuel charges; $17,043.92 to Ascent Aviation for Oct. 2017 jet fuel; $16,500 to High Desert Humane Society for the July-September 2017 animal control services; $15, 917 to New Mexico State University for July-September Cooperative Extension services; $32,223.91 to Gila Regional Medical Center for September 2017 indigent claims, approved by the Commission on 10/19/2017; $25,533.28 to Kansas State Bank for debt service for the 2016 chip spreader for the Road Department; $54,456.02 to Southwest Solid Waste Authority for September tipping fees; $27,205 to the Tri-City Landfill Authority for 2017 monitoring fees; and $20,563.31 to Western Builders for progress billing on Santa Rita Fire Station construction.

Under new business, commissioners will consider the vacation of the Turnerville Plat. Planning and Community Development Director Michael "Mischa" Larisch said Freeport-McMoRan owns the land and approached the county to vacate Turnerville.

"Does anyone live in Turnerville?" Commission Chairman Brett Kasten asked. It's not far past the Manhattan Bar, he explained.

"There are no houses left, only foundations," Larisch said.

County Attorney Abigail Robinson said the company wants to clean up the property lines.

The next item the commissioners will approve or disapprove is the appointment to the County Lodgers' Tax Advisory Board. Kasten noted it was an easy one: "One appointment, one applicant—Douglas Dinwiddie."

The following agenda item brought discussion.

Larisch said he has created the draft of a letter to the New Mexico Department of Transportation. "It was requested for us to look at highways where we will allow the use of off-highway vehicles. It's still up to the Department of Transportation to approve it. Following statute, we have to take the request to the cabinet secretary, then he takes it to the Transportation Commission for approval."

Commissioner Harry Browne asked if the county had gotten any input from residents. County Manager Charlene Webb said she would find out what the process would be for residents' input.

The letter proposes lowering the speed limit to 45 on NM 15 from just north of 32nd Street to Sanctuary Road, in the Mimbres north of NM 152 on NM 35 and south on NM 61 to San Juan, plus several other segments laid out in the letter, including parts of NM 152, NM 356, NM 61, NM 211, NM 293, NM 153, and U.S. 180 within the limits of Buckhorn.

Kasten said he would rather have them all the same. "I have not had one person be against the OHV ordinance we passed, but those driving trucks might not like a drop in the speed limits."

Browne said he had looked forward to a test period and didn't know about the lowering of speed limits. "I thought we could test it for a couple of years."

Commissioner Gabriel Ramos protested that the changes would make the Sheriff's work easier. "I think we should go ahead with this letter." The letter would request permission to install ROV (recreational off-highway vehicles) begin and ROV end signs at the beginning and ending points of each segment, of which there are nine, with some having multiple speed changes.

"I would like two years to test the ordinance," Browne said. "I think the safety dangers are more extreme than we think."

"My plan from the beginning was to progress as we're doing," Kasten said. "However, I might submit an amendment to get rid of the Pinos Altos Road from 32nd to Sanctuary."

"I want a public hearing," Commissioner Alicia Edwards said.

Larisch presented the next item, which was a request by the developer of the Branding Iron Subdivision to have the roads dedicated to the county.

"Lucky Strike Sippy (the developer) asked for the roads in the subdivision to be dedicated to the county," Larisch said. "They were never dedicated. This does not mean we will maintain them. The roads are not up to our specs for maintenance. Lucky Strike has agreed verbally to bring the roads up to standards."

Robinson said to a question that she didn't think a written agreement was needed. "If we don't agree to accept them for maintenance, we don't."

Road Superintendent Earl Moore said a lot of work needs to be done. "All the bar (borrow) ditches are filled with rocks. We have agreed that if brought to standards, we would take over the roads, but the homeowners would take care of the drainage."

Edwards asked what would happen if they don't maintain the drainage and there's a washout. "What is our legal recourse?"

"We would have to look into that," Robinson said. "It's out of the ordinary that these roads were not dedicated."

Browne asked if the county accepts the dedication whether it would get an easement. "No, it's fee simple," Robinson replied.

"Nobody is maintaining the roads, so if they get the roads up to standards, it will raise their property values," Kasten said.

Browne asked if there were any problem with dedicating the roads and not taking them over.

"It's not unusual that roads are not brought up to standards," Robinson said. "Developers run out of money. Dedicating doesn't mean taking over maintenance. Homeowners can deal with maintenance themselves. There are other options, if they don't meet county standards."

"The advantage of our taking over maintenance," Kasten said, "is that we get a little bit of money from the state."

Robinson said, fortunately, in this case, the developer is still involved in the project.

Browne asked the length of road at issue. Larisch replied: "Maybe a mile and a half."

Kasten noted the road was one of his pet peeves about subdivisions around the county. "It's one way in and one way out."

Commissioners will determine on Thursday whether to approve inventory removal of vehicles from the Road Department to go to auction.

Webb, in response to a question from Browne about the vehicles, said there was no Suburban in the mix, but she said a provision in state statute allows transfer of property from local government to local schools. Browne is the financial director of Aldo Leopold Charter School.

Commissioners will consider a request from Hidalgo Medical Services to sublease space in the county-owned Mimbres Senior Center for space to publish a periodic newsletter. "I encourage giving HMS permission. HMS approached us and was happy with the opportunity," Webb said.

Also under consideration will be approval of a Grant County DWI program application to receive distribution of funding reverted to the state program. General Services Director Randy Villa said the DWI program would use it for treatment.

Under agreements, Emergency Manager Gilbert Helton asked for an amendment to an agreement with the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for a hazard mitigation plan. "This extension will change the number of the sub-grant and will extend the termination date to June 30, 2018. We've been rewriting this plan since 2015. We are almost finished and this gives us time to refine it. FEMA gives the extension to the state and the state automatically extends it to us. Once we complete the plan, we can get reimbursement for our costs."

The Grant County bus drivers bargaining unit contract will be approved or not at the regular meeting. Edwards, who serves on the Corre Caminos Advisory Council noted that the funding for the 4 percent increase in salary comes from federal funding, not from the county.

Two lease agreements for hangar sites at the Grant County Airport are on the agenda for approval at the regular meeting. Matthew Ormand and John Sherman have short-term ground leases for five years. Robinson said the leases must get state Board of Finance approval. "They wanted longer-term leases, so once we approve it, get signatures, we can send to the state for approval. We maintain the grounds. The longest process was to get approval of the appraisal from the state."

"When will you get money from the state to pay for your time?" Edwards asked.

"Never," Robinson replied. "I have asked the attorney affiliate to change this process. One of the lessees, in particular, was adamant that he wanted a long-term lease."

Browne suggested charging the lessee for the appraisal. "We are moving forward in that direction," Robinson said. "In the road process, we require the property owners to pay for the appraisal. We now have a starting appraisal for hangar lots."

"We want people to build hangars so we have a thriving airport," Kasten said. "It's big brother government. They want you to take care of yourself, until they decide you can't."

Robinson said it all started with the transfer of a hangar lease.

Under resolutions, commissioners will decide whether to allocate funding for a 2018 Colonias application. "It's usually a 10 percent loan and 10 percent in kind. It's to finish Rosedale Road," Kasten said.

A resolution authorizing Grant County to enter into a lease-purchase agreement with Caterpillar Financial Corporation for blades for the Road Department will be considered. "This gives me authority to sign the agreement once it's completed," Webb said.

Commissioners will decide whether to approve a resolution supporting the Stepping Up program to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails. Webb said it includes the court system and judges, and probation and parole. The national program is in use in 329 counties nationwide and in nine in New Mexico. "It ties in well with Tu Casa," Webb said. "I would like to explore the program. Two women in Las Cruces will give a presentation to potential local partners on Nov. 16. The goal is to get people the help they need and not just get dumped into jails."

Edwards thanked Webb for taking the initiative.

Browne asked if there would be a financial commitment. Webb said: "Yes, but successful programs have partners, which in our case could include HMS and the afore-mentioned partners. I think this is a proven program. Gila Regional and Dr. Bowen from HMS will be at the table. We are reaching out to the community that might be interested. There are likely some grant opportunities to get us started and continue to completion."

Vasquez presented budget adjustments, which pertained to grants for about $1 million increase to the budget and an equal amount of expenditures.

Webb recommended that two bids, one for hauling and delivery of pit run and other road materials and a second for road materials be tabled at the regular meeting. "We want to look into them. We are not sure either is advantageous."

As the Grant County Health Care Claims Board, commissioners will consider 11 claims from Gila Regional, nine from the hospital and two from GRMC ambulance.

Webb noted that two were from May, which were not submitted in a timely fashion. "We are negotiating on them. The hospital can write them off as charity. They did not request an extension."

Under county reports, Joe Andazola, Detenton Center deputy administrator, gave the monthly report. He said the Inmate Support group was trying to get inmates when they are released reinstated with Medicaid. "We also want to help them get jobs."

The average daily population over the past month has been 89. The high male population was 97, 27 more than last month. High female population was 27, 11 more than last month.

Webb asked about transfer time for the inmates awaiting transfer to other facilities. Andazola said the average time has dropped to about two weeks. "They are moving faster."

Road Superintendent Earl Moore said in his department, "it's business as usual. We closed out special projects in Tyrone."

Villa asked Grant County Airport Manager Rebekah Wenger to comment on the current proposal to privatize the Federal Aviation Administration.

"The FAA is in flux," Wenger said. "It is funded through the end of March, but there is a proposal to privatize the towers and manage them through a board. It would put the funding in the board to be managed by larger airlines. Our funding would be in jeopardy. The arguments don't match. Small airports have been arguing for things to remain the same. We have a vocal AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) in New Mexico, and we stay in contact with the federal branch. Our voice here is a bit higher because we are funded by Part 139. What we're concerned about is that privatization of the towers is just a first step toward a slippery slope. We have a large and vocal general aviation community that is growing."

Villa said he and Wenger are putting together a PowerPoint presentation about the issues.

He also reported a new boiler was being installed in the Courthouse. He also has crews are working at Bataan Park. "As for the HVAC, the weather can't decide whether it's summer or winter."

Larisch said Tu Casa is progressing on schedule. "We are getting an estimate on furnishings to make sure we have the money encumbered. The Santa Rita Fire Station is still working on an easement. The Conference Center digital sign is installed. We're waiting on PNM for the transformer."

Browne asked if the county is expecting another clawback at the upcoming session.

"We will have our money encumbered by the end of the year," Webb said. "I plan for the worst and hope for the best."

She said the auditors had finished the audit last week. "We will have the exit conference later in the month. Typically, the auditors meet with the Commission chairman, the manager, the financial officer and the treasurer."

The meeting adjourned.

Live from Silver City

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