[Editor's Note: I forgot to put in expenditure report and I had the name of a leadership group wrong. Sorry!]
By Mary Alice Murphy
The November work session on Nov. 12, 2019 began with county officials' reports. It was the only work session and regular session of the month. Similarly, in December, only one each will be held. The regular meeting took place on Nov. 14, 2019
Detention Center Administrator Mike Carilllo gave the jail report for Oct. 15-Nov. 11, 2019. "As of today, we have one staff vacancy. The number of inmates on Oct. 30 was 83, and today we stand at 83."
Road Superintendent Earl Moore said his personnel have been doing tree trimming in Redrock. "We are trimming mesquite and working on the washouts in the area. We continue to work on resident complaints."
General Services Director Randy Villa read from a letter from the Administrative Office of the Courts Director Arthur Pepin expressing appreciation for the work of Cindy Blackman of the Grant County DWI program. She facilitated a training for the AOC and other DWI program directors throughout the state. "She helped increase the professionalism of the program and its coordinators."
Villa said he wanted to thank Blackman for her work. "The state uses her as a model for the DWI program."
He asked Kim Dominguez, Corre Caminos Transit program manager, to update the commissioners. "New Mexico was chosen by the Federal Transit Administration to have its transit programs evaluated. I was interviewed, and we were evaluated. Corre Caminos was recognized as the only transit program in the state to receive only one small finding. In addition to fixing that, we are replacing the wooden benches with metal rubber-coated benches that will last longer. Some are already installed, and more are in progress."
Villa said the airport terminal renovation is going well. "And enplanements are up. We had 407 to Albuquerque in October, which was 37 more than last year."
"We are starting to replace the HVAC systems to tomorrow and we expect to finish by Friday," he said. "We have put the ADA parking in place at Bataan Memorial Park. We hope to bring fire and EMS statistics to you. The Whiskey Creek Volunteer Fire Department renovation is 98 percent complete. We are also working on a station for the Hachita VFD, which is Station 5 out of Tyrone VFD. We are getting the station re-established with classrooms, an office for the chief, and, of course, several bays for vehicles."
District 4 Commissioner Billy Billings asked about the possibility of rental cars at the Grant County Airport.
"Advanced Air won't be bringing them in, but we may try to get Enterprise out there," Villa said.
County Community Development and Planning Director Michael "Mischa" Larisch reported the Tyrone ADA sidewalk project is ongoing, with ramps being installed. "The New Mexico Department of Transportation is working on the North Hurley phase II. We are working with Bohannon Huston to get the bidding documents done to get it going by early next year."
He said they had a "hiccup" with state CES issues purchase orders to Hamilton and Southwest Concrete. "They assure us that they will have warm enough weather even during the winter to get the project done. The design is complete. We were hoping to have it started on November 1, but (Road Superintendent Earl) Moore assured us we can do paving at 40 degrees and rising."
County Manager Charlene Webb said she had attended the Southwest Collaborative Leadership group meeting and heard an update on the Fort Bayard lease. On the topic of outdoor recreation, she reported the Forest Service is working on trails improvement and is hiring a full-time trails and outdoor recreation specialist. Martha Cooper of The Nature Conservancy is working on projects with the Grant Soil and Water Conservation District. "We will report to the Prospectors in an informational presentation. County department heads will be part of a six-month leadership program starting in January. We have had complaints about falling down and vacant mobile homes. We are working on a proposed ordinance that relates to the dangers and hazards of these mobile homes. The attorneys are reviewing the ordinance. Last week, I met with Don Turner, who has organized a replacement and design of a more permanent monument at the Bataan Park Memorial. They are an eight-person group and very passionate about it. They have done a lot of work. They are asking for our approval to move forward. We are also tightening renting policies for the pavilion at Bataan Park and the exhibit building at the Fairgrounds. I will meet on Friday with the Administration of Courts on the possibility of their using the Black Street facility as a temporary location for Magistrate Court.
District 3 Commissioner Alicia Edwards asked if Webb needed formal approval of the Bataan Memorial replacement. Webb said no, just verbal approval would work. Chairman Chris Ponce, District 5 Commissioner Harry Browne, Edwards and Billings all said Yes. District 2 Commissioner Javier Salas was not present.
Next on the agenda was the proclamation for the Tamal Fiesta y Mas, which was approved at the regular meeting and which took place on Nov. 16, 2019 in Santa Clara.
Because Financial Officer Linda Vasquez and Procurement Officer Randy Hernandez were attending training, Sam Hernandez gave the financial report.
For the period from October 18 to November 7, 2019, the total expenditures were $1,215,725.93, including two payroll periods totaling $260,916.07.
Ponce asked if the county was paying any other attorneys, other than the firm on contract.
Webb replied that they have a small contract with another firm, not to exceed $20,000. "We haven't come close to getting to the $20,000 budgeted amount. So far, we've spent about $5,000.
Edwards noted that the previous staff attorney for the county was paid, with salary and benefits, at least $125,000.
Under the review of the election canvass, Edwards said Clerk Marisa Castrillo had reminded her to remind all the commissioners of their duty to go by the Clerk's office individually to review the election results.
DWI Program Director Cindy Blackman said due to her miserly ways, not all the state distribution toward the program had been spent. "I will put $3,000 toward enforcement and some toward radio ads for Corre Cantinas. We will be doing an evaluation of the Corre Cantinas program. We had a moratorium on radio ads, but we will evaluate and show the correlation between ads and increased ridership. The numbers dropped and it may have been because of no ads. We are holding 14 classes at various schools. We will hold a six-hour alcohol education class. We have 130 people on probation. Roxanne in my office does a great job in finding people help."
Browne said it seemed the data offers an interesting opportunity. "Have you correlated to crashes or citations?"
"Yes, I use the crash databases," Blackman replied. "The Department of Finance and Administration doesn't think the programs need to be evidence-based, but I was determined to make it evidence-based. Our program is considered evidence-based."
Edwards said she believed that is why Blackman received a commendation letter. "We appreciate what you do."
Villa noted that Corre Cantinas does not just take people to and from bars or clubs. "It can also be house-to-house. I think advertisement of the program will help. It's still public transportation."
"We're unique in the state for having the program to prevent impaired driving," Blackman said.
Villa said Blackman has a budget for the Corre Cantinas program.
"It's on demand," Blackman said. "We did a training, reminding bar owners not to kick out people for fighting. Rather they should call the cops and Corre Cantinas. It costs $3.50 each way."
Ponce pointed out that paying that price for a ride was a lot cheaper than receiving a DWI.
Under resolutions, commissioners would consider support of the New Mexico Counties 2020 legislative priorities. The first of three items are to increase reimbursement to detention centers for housing state inmates. Last year, only $2.3 million was allocated to the whole state. Webb said: "We calculated that it would cost $24 million." The second item was to reimburse Sheriff's Offices to fully fund Emergency Medical Service departments. "Counties are struggling to fully fund EMS services. We are also looking to increase disbursements to law enforcement."
Sheriff Frank Gomez said last year his department received $32,000.
"We get funding for certified officers," Webb said. "It's a special fund for training and vehicles. We are asking for expanded behavioral health services in detention centers, too. Another issue is Public Employee Retirement Association solvency. We are opposing increases to employer rates. We have some of the highest in the nation. There is a lot of confusion about the issue. It's not that we aren't supporting PERA solvency, but we are opposing putting the costs on the backs of counties."
Webb said Grant County has phenomenal benefits. "We pay 17.5 percent of gross salaries of regular employees and 32.5 percent for law enforcement, plus 100 percent health insurance."
Ponce said those benefits were part of the union negotiations.
"PERA has known for years that it is insolvent," Webb said. "We have raised the counties' positions on the issue for years. We are pushing back. We are saying they should look at all other options before putting it on the counties."
Ponce noted that PERA just gave raises to its directors.
Webb said there are a lot of resources this year that could make the fund solvent.
Edwards asked to return to the behavioral health piece. "In my role with Health Kids, Healthy Communities, we are doing assessments on pediatric care. We have a lack of mental health resources for kids. It's all connected. How much do the Human Services Department and the Public Education Department talk about this?"
Webb said her focus on the priority is on how it affects recidivism and detention centers.
Edwards asked if New Mexico Counties was looking at the pediatric piece.
"I think this is focusing on what we as counties do," Webb said. "We don't have any control over the PED. We know the whole big picture, but we're focusing on what affects our budget."
Edwards said she understood, but felt it was important for legislators to recognize where the issue first arises.
"I'm guessing the School Advocacy Group should address it to the PED," Webb said.
"Until we look at these things and how they are interconnected, we'll fund it as isolated issues and not look at the whole picture," Edwards said.
Ponce said the language in the NMC priority list says incarcerated, whether for one day, three days or a week. "It shouldn't continue to go forward six months. Maybe the best way for us to address this is with a resolution."
Webb said the priorities are in a resolution. "It's our requirement to address behavioral health as soon as they are incarcerated and as long as they are incarcerated. If we can keep them going to appointments, getting prescriptions; if we can provide the services after release, we can make a dent in recidivism."
Edwards asked about keeping inmates that are pre-adjudicated for up to 364 days.
"It can be longer," Webb said, "but we can hold them locally up to 364 days."
Billings said he supported the New Mexico Counties legislative priorities. "But I don't feel that are all-inclusive. It's heart-breaking to hear about women who have been abused. They can predict their future. They are on a tragic course. How do we face this? These are just a start."
The next item was a request for proposal for a Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (FACT) service provider. Webb said: "We received one bid from Hidalgo Medical Services. It is a component of the Independent Development Plan for inmates."
Commissioners, as the Grant County Health Care Claims Board reviewed the five regular claims and two ambulance claims for a total of $20,012.47.
After reconvening as the Grant County Board of Commissioners, they gave their commissioner reports.
Edwards said she would like to discuss the special meeting that had been called and then cancelled for a good reason. "I think we should reschedule the special meeting."
Browne said his wish was to get the manager's contract done.
"Yes, I, too have a desire to get it done, but I'm not sure we have enough time in executive session on Thursday," Edwards said.
"I would like to get it done on Thursday if we possibly can," Browne said.
Edwards said the County News publication talked about two new bills that would amend the Medicaid inmate exclusion policy. "We should be supporting this. I encourage a resolution in support of this legislation, and we should call on the federal delegation to support it. The current law makes no distinction between pre-adjudicated and adjudicated inmates."
Billings talked about the costs of traumatized kids in abusive homes.
Edwards concurred that counties need to come around 100 percent on how trauma affects kids.
Ponce, in his report, thanked everyone for their sympathies to him. "Losing my mom in June and now my dad, it's a little shocking. That's the reason why the special meeting was canceled."
The commissioners adjourned.
The report on the regular meeting will follow.