[Editor's Note: This is part 2 of a comprehensive multi-part series of articles on the Commission regular session on Nov. 9, 2017.]
By Mary Alice Murphy
At the Nov. 9, 2017 Grant County Commission regular meeting, four people gave public input on two different issues.
Donna Stevens, Upper Gila Watershed Alliance executive director, commented on the proposed letter to the New Mexico Department of Transportation Cabinet Secretary. "The letter proposes to let OHVs (off-highway vehicles) drive on some segments of highways. I know the commissioners are concerned about this. I don't think we have had enough time to determine the impact on public safety. Why can't we allow a reasonable time to evaluate the safety issues? I urge you to table the letter for at least a year."
Christina Wofford of Supporting People in Need (SPIN) said she noticed the commissioners "are going to pass the Stepping Up program. I want to remind you that SPIN is working on permanent support housing that will save money at the hospital and jail and keep people out of them. Please pass the Stepping Up resolution."
Robert Eagle also commented on the OHV issue. "I hope you can table it and allow more time to assimilate this."
Emily Pollom, a member of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), supported the Stepping Up program. "I think it's important."
Most of the following items were discussed in more detail at the work session.
County Financial Officer Linda Vasquez presented the fiscal year's first quarter report. Please visit http://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/40454-grant-county-commission-discusses-items-at-work-session-110717 for a detailed report.
Commissioners approved the county vacation of the Turnerville plat, which gives Freeport McMoRan control of land it owns.
To fill one vacancy on the Grant County Lodgers' Tax Advisory Board, one applicant requested to be put on the board. Commissioners approved the application from Douglas Dinwiddie.
The ROV (recreational off-highway vehicle) letter to the Secretary of the New Mexico Department of Transportation elicited a bit more discussion.
Commissioner Alicia Edward moved to table approval of sending the letter to allow public input on the issue, which involves lowering speed limits in nine different segments of highways.
Commission Harry Browne reiterated what he said at the work session about when the commissioners passed the ordinance a couple of months ago. "I've heard concerns from drivers. I am satisfied with the ordinance and that it will improve options for residents, but I’m not sure it's a safe change. I think it would be prudent to evaluate safety. I think we're moving toward their use on highways too quickly. I think we should act cautiously on what we have for about two years before we expand it. I think we're asking the NM DOT to evaluate. I would like the state Highway Department to advise us and make a decision."
Commission Chairman Brett Kasten said he was the one who had asked that the letter be written. "I don't think we need to look at this more. I have spent a fair bit of time in Show Low, Arizona. These vehicles are used safely throughout the area. I will vote against tabling it. I think the use of the ROVs is an economic driver."
He called for a roll call vote. Clerk Marisa Castrillo asked each commissioner individually. Browne and Edwards voted to table the item. Commissioners Gabriel Ramos, Billy Billings and Kasten voted nay. The next item was to approve the sending of the letter. Ramos, Billings and Kasten voted aye and Browne and Edwards voted nay. The letter will be sent.
Commissioners approved the dedication of roads in the Branding Iron subdivision. Kasten explained that the commissioners were not voting to maintain the roads, just to dedicate them and make sure the developer brings the roads up to county standards.
Four older pickups from the Road Department were approved to go to auction as excess inventory.
Also approved was a request by Hidalgo Medical Services to allow the sublease in the Mimbres Senior Center for use to put out a newsletter. HMS leases the facility from the county.
Commissioners approved an application by the Grant County DWI Program to seek funds reverted by other entities.
Under agreements, commissioners approved an amendment to an agreement with the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for an extension in time to complete a hazard mitigation plan.
The Grant County bus drivers bargaining unit contract was approved. Edwards noted that the funding for the raise comes from federal funding, not from the county.
Two long-term ground lease agreements for hangar sites at the Grant County Airport were approved for Matthew Ormand and John Sherman.
In resolutions, commissioners approved the allocation of funding for the 2018 Colonias application. The agreements include a 10 percent loan and a 10 percent in-kind match.
Commissioners approved a resolution authorizing Grant County to enter into a lease-purchase agreement with Caterpillar Financial Corporation for blades for the Road Department.
Also approved was the Stepping Up program to reduce the number of people with mental illness in the jail. County Manager Charlene Webb said an upcoming presentation would help her determine who would be partners with the county in the effort. "I want to find out who is interested. It will help me determine what we can do."
Commissioners approved budget adjustments, which all pertained to revenues and expenditures connected to grants.
Webb requested tabling the next two bids on the hauling and delivery of pit run and other road material and road materials for the Road Department. She said at the work session the county needed to determine if they were beneficial to the county. She asked that the item be placed on the January agenda.
As the Health Care Claims Board, commissioners discussed the claims. Webb asked, until she could get more information, that two old claims from May for $902 and more than $13,000 not be approved. The ones dated September and October were approved for $13,900.27 for Gila Regional Medical Center ambulance and hospital claims.
Elected officials' reports will be addressed in the final article in the series.