City discusses Veterans park

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The Socorro County Commission discussed the county’s veterans park project during its regular meeting Feb. 12, but no action was taken other than directing staff to sketch a plan.

Empty monuments need to be finished at Isidro Baca Park, the park just south of the plaza in Socorro. Original plans for the park also included an archway that hasn’t been finished. County manager Delilah Walsh said the city of Socorro has proposed finishing the park if the county gives the park to the city.

Walsh said the county and city follow a memorandum of understanding that has the city maintain the park. She said the question is whether the county is willing to give up the park to the city in order to have it finished soon, or retain the land and set up a different timeline for finishing the park.

“I personally hate giving up property,” commission chairman and District 4 Commissioner Daniel Monette said. “I hate to give it away and then us not have a say-so on what’s going to happen on our part.”

Monette added he doesn’t mind changing the timeline to complete the project once the county has funds available.

District 5 Commissioner Juan Gutierrez said the county gave the city the youth center gym and saved a lot of money on that. He said he would like to see the park finished, and pointed out the city does a good job maintaining the park.

Walsh said the county did not budget for any capital improvements this year. She noted the county started the fiscal year with a budget shortfall, knowing they would have to use at least $250,000 from reserves this year. Although the county did not budget for capital projects in the current fiscal year, they had to add a couple — the courthouse roof and technology upgrades.

Walsh said the assessor’s office has been doing a lot of work, and based on assessor’s valuations, an extra $290,000 income is projected for next year. She said that increase will close the county’s budget gap, but not fund it for capital projects.

“But, again, we have reserves,” Walsh said. “It’s a one-time expenditure, and that’s what reserves are for.”

Walsh said she had no problem spending the estimated $100,000 to finish the park since it wouldn’t be an ongoing expense.

District 3 Commissioner Phillip Anaya thought the city put as much, if not more, into improvements already made at the park.

“Our idea was to get that project done for the least amount of money, and they were willing to cooperate with us then and we went into that agreement for the maintenance and all that,” Anaya said. “I’d like to see it completed. … I think I’m going to go along with what the city wants to do.”

Monette acknowledged the city did do a lot of work on the park, but it was with money the county provided. Walsh added the city did not provide any money to build the park.

Walsh said the only work left to do is to complete the monuments and the archway, and if the county had money, it would only take about a month to do.

County attorney Adren Nance reminded commissioners the park was not a final action item on the agenda, but something to discuss and then direct staff on. He said even if the commission decided to turn the park over to the city, it would be “quite a bit of a process.”

The commission directed Walsh to follow up with the city and bring back a draft plan, which could potentially include a land trade.

In items under new business, the commission:

  • Approved the sole community provider payment to Socorro General Hospital.
  • Approved the county’s continuity of operations plan, which is a plan to prepare the county to respond to disasters or a major emergency while continuing to provide day-to-day essential services. Walsh explained the C.O.O.P. is a living document that is frequently reviewed and revised.
  • Tabled an item to award a construction contract for the Sabinal Community Center.
  • Voted not to vacate a portion of Church Street in San Antonio. Walsh said county staff met with the road review committee, which recommended vacating the road only if adjacent owners agreed. San Miguel Church did not agree with vacating the road, nor did another owner.
  • Tabled an ordinance that, if enacted, would allow the county to seize a person’s vehicle if the person racked up a certain number of DWI offenses. The commission decided to delay action on the item at least until county DWI program coordinator Theresa Rosales was able to present information on the issue.
  • Took no action on having a wage analysis done. Walsh said the county doesn’t have money to spend on the wage analysis at this time; it would take about $14,200 for just an analysis, and about $26,000 for wage comparisons as well. Gutierrez said the county might have to leave the analysis until the next budget cycle, but he wants it done because many county employees are underpaid. At a meeting in November 2012, Walsh recommended the county develop a compensation plan to ensure fairness in determining employee salaries. A compensation study, or wage analysis, is the first step in developing a compensation plan.
  • Approved the fiscal year 2011-2012 audit. Walsh expressed excitement that the county got a qualified audit this year, which helped the county get a lower interest rate on the jail bonds to build a new detention center. The bonds were sold publicly Jan. 22 with a 2.3 percent interest rate for repayment.