By Mary Alice Murphy
During public input at the beginning of the meeting, Gerald Schultz, representing the Jornada Resource and Conservation Development District, which he said includes the former Black Range RC and D, came forward to speak.
"It is unfortunate that no one from this group made it to the Upper Gila Forum in Thatcher, Arizona, on Jan. 11," Schultz said. "One item I will relay is about the trends that climate change will have on temperatures and your projects."
He said another forum that would be of interest to the board is the one to be held on April 23 at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces. He said the topic is Two Nations, One Water: The U.S.-Mexico Border Water Summit 2019 about adaptive strategies to address water at the critical points of Texas, New Mexico and Chihuahua.
"I have given you in the past contact information for the Jornada RC and D, which could provide grant funding for your projects, if you need it," Schultz continued.
For the third item, he talked about an article in the Silver City Daily Press which said a large amount of money—$13 million—had been spent on planning without coming up with a project for public and environmental benefit. "I realize that Reclamation is no longer doing such projects, but they could have done it in half the time and half the cost. This diversion project is being developed by citizen volunteers and by contractors."
The only item of new business on the agenda was the 2017-18 Audit. As no one was present, they tabled it until later in the meeting, in case the auditor arrived.
Executive Director Anthony Gutierrez gave his report. "I've been continuing to provide the joint leads with the data in anticipation of an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) soon. I expect the draft of the business plan within two weeks."
Van "Bucky" Allred, representing Catron County, asked if anyone from the Wild and Scenic presentation had gotten back to Gutierrez with the requested information.
"All I have is a copy of the presentation," Gutierrez said.
"Maybe you can contact them and remind them of the need for the maps," Allred said. Gutierrez said he would follow up.
Ty Bays, representing the Grant Soil and Water Conservation District, asked if Gutierrez had seen the letter from the governor and lieutenant governor that said they would do everything they could to stop the Gila diversion project.
"Yes, it was actually a white paper," Gutierrez said. "I talked to the woman who created it. It was based on information that I felt was incomplete. We provided up-to-date information. I don't know what has been done to stop our process. We are under the federal Act. We will continue."
Hutchinson noted that the governor had until "today" (the day of the meeting-April 2) to act on legislation that was passed, including HB 2, which has the allocation to the ISC. "I am monitoring it, but she has until Friday to line item veto items. We need to monitor it to make sure the funding is still there."
No auditor had shown up. Bays asked when the deadline was to approve the audit.
Chairwoman Darr Shannon said the city of Deming had asked for it to be on this agenda.
John Sweetser, representing Luna County, asked if anyone on the board had seen it. No one, including Gutierrez, had seen it.
Gutierrez talked on the phone to the Deming City Manager Aaron Sera and was told Sera would try to send him the audit.
Lloyd Valentine of the Office of the State Engineer in Deming talked to the Deming treasurer and said that the auditor had asked for a waiver so as not to have to present it.
The members moved into recess.
After a brief recess, the auditor called on the telephone and gave the report.
The auditor, by the name of Gonzales, said it will consist of an overall highlight of timing and what was done. Then he would go over the opinions.
"There's a lot in an audit," Gonzales said. "Thank you for providing the information in a timely manner. An audit will have several opinions in it."
He said the audit had two reports, because the entity had not spent more than $750,000 in federal grants or loans.
One is the independent report. "You should have received the hard copy of the financial statements."
Gutierrez said the city of Deming got the copies but the entity did not.
"You are hiring us to give you an opinion," Gonzales said. "We provide you assurance. You have asserted to us a trial balance. When you receive the financial statements, you will see several opinions. You can receive an unmodified opinion, which means the readers can materially rely on the numbers. A qualified opinion means the auditor was only able to gather some of the information. The worst is a disclaimer that the auditor could not collect enough information to do an audit.
"You received an unmodified opinion," he continued. "Another report, not an opinion, is called the yellow book report or the 'tattletale' report, as I jokingly call it. You had no findings this year. We didn't check every number but took a sample, according to auditing standards."
The prior year finding on a travel report has been resolved.
"So, you received the best opinion and the cleanest report," Gonzales said. "You did a great job and you tightened up the finding from last year and made sure it didn't happen again. The audit went through the state auditor's office and passed the quality control on Feb. 21. March 10 we were given permission to release it. It can be seen on the state auditor's website."
The audit was approved. When received by Shannon or Gutierrez, copies will be sent to board members.
The next meeting will take place at 10 a.m., May 7, 2019 at the Grant County Administration Center.