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Commissioners discuss Fort Bayard and Forest issues to be voted on at regular session on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018.

By Mary Alice Murphy

At the Grant County Commission work session on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, County Financial Officer Linda Vasquez presented the expenditure report ending Jan. 4, 2018.

County expenditures since the last report in December 2017 totaled $1,375,744.06, including two pay periods for $446,857.16. Extraordinary expenses over $10,000 include a payment of $10,225.00 for airport liability insurance renewal to Arthur J. Gallagher & Company; $22,217.95 to Wright Express Fleet Services for the November 2017 fuel charges; $11,666.35 to Silver City-Grant County Chamber of commerce for November and December 2017 management fees; $267,214.06 to White Sands Construction for Tu Casa Construction progress billing; $14,408.46 to Juniper Advisory LLC for the November 2017 retainer fee and services; and $43,838 to David Stephens of Core Values for January 2018 inmate health care services.

Commissioners at their regular session would consider giving the county manager the authority to enter an agreement for professional legal services with Drinker, Biddle and Reath, LLP. County Manager Charlene Webb said the purpose is for a legal review addressing what comes out of the Juniper Advisory recommendations.

A consent agenda would approve the 2018 Volunteer Fire and Rescue departments' annual elections of officers from the Cliff/Gila, Fort Bayard, Lower Mimbres, Pinos Altos, Santa Rita, Sapillo, Tyrone, Upper Mimbres, and Whiskey Creek VFDs.

A second consent agenda item dealt with the annual service reports and EMS Fund Act Local Funding Program application for fiscal year 2018 for the following organizations: Gila Regional Medical Center, Gila Valley, Pinos Altos, Tyrone White Signal District 1, Tyrone Flying A and Wind Canyon District 2, Tyrone Hachita District 3, and Whiskey Creek EMS.

County Attorney Abigail Robinson said, due to a typo in the previous resolution on the statement of vacation of the Turnerville Subdivision plat, commissioners needed to approve it again.

The Open Meetings Act had no changes other than dates and the number of the resolution.

A resolution would approve two Grant County Airport ground lease agreements. Robinson said the county got state approval for the changes. With the commissioners' signatures and then signatures from the lessees, "I recommend you approve the changes."

In bids, commissioners were to consider bids for the mine aggregate pit for Grant County. Webb said there were three respondents and the approval committee recommended entering into negotiations with Fowler Brothers.

As the Grant County Health Care Claims Board, commissioners would approve or disapprove the claims in the amount of $13,944.77 to GRMC, including one GRMC ambulance claim for $709.

Next came county officials' reports.

Detention Center Administrator Mike Carillo said the jail had seven vacancies. "The two newest employees have completed the field training and will be assigned shifts."

He said he was informed yesterday of a grant that pertains to those on probation and parole, especially targeting parolees with substance abuse issues. "It would cover housing, jobs and substance abuse treatment. It will cover costs and will enhance Tu Casa and the Stepping Up program. I have already asked for letters of support from Hidalgo Medical Services and others. The University of New Mexico will help us with this grant, which will help the community, the detention center and the inmates. I hope it goes through."

He said he was looking at a follow up meeting on the Stepping Up Program. He noted that 2,039 inmates were held in the facility in 2017.

Road Superintendent Earl Moore reported the department is still working at the airport on the parking lot. "We put the rest of the millings at the side of the airport. We have lots of millings. We are also starting to help with patching roads in the county." To Commissioner Harry Browne in answer to a previous question, Moore said: "I contacted the state and we should have the bicycle route numbers straightened out on the signs. We have a punch list for the Department of Transportation's signs."

General Services Director Randy Villa thanked the maintenance department for decorating the Grant County Courthouse for the holidays.

"We are trying to figure out whether it is winter or spring," Villa said. "County employees are either too hot or too cold."

He reported Corre Cantinas ran on New Year's Eve, but had fewer than 100 passengers, although Deming had more than previously. In reference to a fire in a storage building on New Mexico 90, he said it burned down, but a nearby residence was saved. "The fire is under investigation."

Browne said he saw a request for reimbursement by the state for the fire services. Villa said for wildland fires, the VFDs get reimbursement depending on the type of equipment required. State Fire funds cover construction fires."

Commissioner Billy Billings said one of the persons involved is interested in reparation.

"If there is no structure damage, they should not expect reimbursement," Villa said.

"Grass is feed," Billings said.

Villa said: "It's up to the property owner. It depends on the official determination of the source of the fire."

Community Development and Planning Director Michael "Mischa" Larisch said he didn't have a whole lot to report. "Tu Casa is 65 percent to 70 percent complete. I'll be doing a site visit to the Santa Rita Fire Station tomorrow (Wednesday)."

In reference to the Asset Management Plan by Bohannon- Huston, "Denise West and Aaron Sussman have worked really hard with the New Mexico Finance Authority, which was reluctant to give us reimbursement for the plan. According to the NMFA, they were expecting a water and water treatment plan."

Webb said she wanted some clarification on the Fort Bayard issue.

Commission Chairman Brett Kasten said he was "scared to death about getting too tied into the agreement. I want to see the plan and numbers. Without leased water rights, which I think is the No. 1 money-making thing, but they can't be moved, I don't think it will work. I think the water is vitally important to the Regional Water Plan. My biggest fear on the regional water plan is that it could create a dependency on Silver City. I need more documentation proving to me that the Fort Bayard plan is workable."

Webb asked each commissioner to give her questions and what they wanted in the way of documents.

"This is a big deal," Browne said.

"I don't want to involve staff time if we are not inclined to do this," Webb said.
Browne said his feeling was of a lot of support for the possibility. "I will be available to help."

Webb said the staff would initiate gathering the documents. She asked Mayor Bauch to email them to her and "we'll get to work on it."

Commissioner Alicia Edwards saw it as a huge timing issue. "The legislative session will be done before we meet again. Can we do it on Thursday? Are we interested enough to have a special meeting?"

Browne said he wanted to make sure the legislation referenced a JPA.

"We could enter an MOU contingent on items," Kasten said.

Edwards said she would be willing to vote on that MOU. "The question is what (General Services Department Secretary Ed) Burckle wants.

Commissioner Gabriel Ramos said his preference was to involve more entities.

Webb said: "Mayor Bauch wants our consideration on entering into a partnership. We could do a consideration of exploration, such as 'Grant County desires to explore a partnership with the potential to co-own Fort Bayard with the village of Santa Clara.'"

The item was added to the agenda for the regular session on Thursday.

Billings said county resources being expended is a big deal. "Put it back on the village to answer questions."

Ramos noted that the Gila National Forest would not be making the decision to move into Fort Bayard. "A federal agency makes that decision."

Kasten agreed that he wanted to explore the potential partnership with Santa Clara for ownership of Fort Bayard and to encourage Santa Clara to work with other entities.

In her commissioner's report, Edwards said she met with Edith Lee of Hidalgo Medical Services. "She told me HMS is committed to ensuring there is no interruption to senior services while the Area Agency on Aging goes through its process."

On the issue of a letter to the Gila National Forest on the forest management plan, Ramos said the Southwest County Commissioner Alliance had come up with a letter that would be considered to be signed onto by the county.

"We want to make sure if the plan recommends the creation of more wilderness that it is not scarred land," Ramos said. "Plus if we cannot fight fires, cannot cut wood, we don't approve of it because we want to keep it multi-purpose for everyone to enjoy. We wouldn't be able to maintain trails using a chain saw. We are getting known as a biking destination, so we want trails for mountain biking."

Browne emphasized that the forest has done as it was required to do by law—make an inventory of potential wilderness designation. "We don't expect them to recommend all that land as a wilderness. And it's Congress who must make the wilderness designation."

Ramos said he is just looking at past practices in planning situations. "We were told on the Travel Management Plan, 'we don't expect to choose option G.' But that's the option they chose. We got blindsided. The reason for the hurry is that the comment period was extended to Jan. 12, so we want to get the comments in before then."

The meeting adjourned.

Live from Silver City

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