Alamo to get fire dept.

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Socorro County will soon have a new fire department in Alamo, the county received its jail bond money and more was discussed during county department manager reports at the Socorro County Commission’s regular meeting Tuesday.

Commissioners convened in executive session for over an hour and a half toward the beginning of the meeting to discuss personnel matters, Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District culverts and easements, Presbyterian Medical Services contract negotiation and the state Taxation and Revenue Department vs. Socorro County Treasurer.

When they returned, they acknowledged personnel changes, birthdays and anniversaries, then heard the treasurer’s office report from Treasurer Tina Lujan. She said the county received its jail bond money Feb. 27, which means the county can get started on its new detention center. Baca also said the treasurer’s office is at a little over 60 percent collection for fiscal year 2012 property taxes.

County fire marshal Fred Hollis said the emergency management department has six Firewise meetings set up, including a new one this year in Magdalena.

All the Firewise workshops are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and all but one are held at fire stations. The meetings are scheduled for March 16 in Midway, March 23 in Magdalena, April 6 in Hop Canyon, April 13 in San Antonio and April 20 in Veguita. The Socorro FunFest is the only workshop not held at a fire station, but at Clark Field in Socorro. The FunFest is April 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Hollis also said a county fire department will be formed in Alamo.

“I think it’s a good step forward,” Hollis said. “We’ve been waiting for it and waiting for it.”

County manager Delilah Walsh congratulated Hollis on being selected man of the year by the Socorro Chamber of Commerce, which honored Hollis during its banquet last Saturday.

During her department report, Walsh said the county has moved some of its alternate housing inmates from McKinley County to Cibola County due to some issues discovered during a site visit by Evangel Maldonado, Socorro County’s detention administrator. She didn’t specify what the issues were during the meeting, but said McKinley County has sent her a corrective action plan.

Walsh said for now, Socorro County will do its own transports to the jail in Cibola County, and Maldonado will also meet with Torrance County. She said the county’s road department mechanic took one of the county’s old vans and some old cages from the sheriff’s cars, rewelding and reworking them to make an inmate transfer van.

“I really want to give him a lot of props … Just so you know, a new transport van is $58,000,” Walsh said. “And so Luke was able to kind of jerry-rig that together and get us a safe transport vehicle.”

Walsh said the county will hire a temporary transport officer for the sheriff’s department just until the end of the fiscal year to take inmates to Cibola County. She said the county will only take inmates to Cibola County until the issues at the McKinley County facility are corrected.

Walsh said she participated in a conference call among county managers, indigent care providers and hospital administrators. She said the state is trying to propose to the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services that all the counties use their one-eighth of one percent gross receipts tax for indigent care to match the Medicare/Medicaid federal funds. However, Socorro County doesn’t have the indigent care GRT enacted, she said, so the county will have to negotiate with the state on where it will get that money.

Walsh said Gov. Susana Martinez has agreed to expand Medicare/Medicaid coverage under the federal Affordable Healthcare Act, but that doesn’t mean the state comes up with the money on its own; the counties have to come up with the matching funds. She said more money will come back to the county for it, but the county still has to come up with the matching funds initially. She said county staff is discussing the matter with the state Department of Health.

Walsh said the congressional budget sequester has fostered uncertainty about whether PILT, or payment in lieu of taxes, will be reauthorized for the next fiscal year. The federal government distributes PILT funds to counties that have federal land within their borders to help offset the absence of property taxes, which could otherwise be collected if the land was privately owned.

Walsh said even if PILT is reauthorized, the funds the county gets will be cut by at least five percent. She noted the assessor’s office is doing great work in its current mass reappraisal, picking up properties that were not previously on the tax rolls. However, she said the county’s budget will likely remain flat because of the PILT funds decreasing.

In other business, the Socorro County Commission:

  • Approved an agreement with the New Mexico Department of Public Safety for emergency dispatch services. Walsh explained the $33,000 per year the county pays for after-hours dispatch services through NMSP District 11 is more cost effective than hiring more dispatchers for the sheriff’s office. She said the city of Socorro is not interested in doing dispatch for the county.
  • Approved the election/appointment of fire chiefs for the county’s volunteer fire departments. The commission tabled the item in the morning and called the meeting back to order at 1:30 p.m. so Commissioner Pauline Jaramillo could vote on the matter. The resolution states the members of each county fire district elect a district chief, and then forward the results to the county for the commission’s final approval and appointment. The elected/appointed chiefs are: Kelly Voris for Abeytas Volunteer Fire Department, Fredrick Bookland for Hop Canyon VFD, Michael Lucero for Midway VFD, Hollis for San Antonio VFD and Tony Ortega for Veguita VFD.
  • Approved PERA insurance for the fire districts. Hollis said the PERA insurance is the only benefit volunteer firefighters get, and they must have 10 years’ credit before they reach age 55 to get the insurance. Each year volunteers’ information is sent to the state so they can be credited for a year of service.
  • Awarded a contract to Presbyterian Medical Services for PMS to provide health care services at the county’s new Veguita Health Center.
  • Tabled a merchant processing agreement with Tyler Technologies because the county hasn’t heard back from Tyler concerning an amendment to the agreement.
  • Approved a budget adjustment for the road department.
  • Approved miscellaneous budget adjustments. Walsh said most changes were for the emergency management department.
  • Acknowledged the finance report and February journal entries.
  • Approved vendor checks.
  • Approved payroll checks.