Public gets chance to voice opinion

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The Socorro County Commission held a public hearing for input on projects to include in the county’s wish list for funding over the next five years during its regular meeting Aug. 13, although nobody except county staff and commissioners brought up discussion.

The public will have another chance to give suggestions on infrastructure capital improvement plan and Community Development Block Grant projects when the commission holds another public hearing during its regular meeting Aug. 27 at 6 p.m.

Anyone with a project that should be considered can obtain a request form from the county manager’s office at 210 Park St., Socorro, or from the county’s website at www.SocorroCounty.net. Projects can include road improvements, equipment purchases, new buildings or anything that would contribute to the greater good of the public.

County Manager Delilah Walsh said the state Department of Finance and Administration changed the state’s database to force counties into more long-range capital planning. She said ICIP requests have to be more detailed, not generic listings such as “road improvements,” in order to provide more information to the governor and Legislature when counties go to lobby for capital projects.

The county’s ICIP is a living document updated each year that prioritizes capital projects and infrastructure development five years into the future. Every local government must maintain an ICIP to get state and federal funding.

Walsh added the county wants people to suggest CDBG projects during the public hearings, too. The Veguita Health Center is the county’s current CDBG project, but by the end of this year the county will start the application process for its next CDBG project. CDBG funds can be used for community facilities, infrastructure repair or planning, capital improvements, or any type of project to benefit a low-income rural community.

Walsh said the county is soliciting input for its 2015-19 ICIP. The county will lobby the Legislature at its 2014 session for fiscal year 2015, which begins July 2014.

Walsh said the county must comply with a new executive order that has to do with ensuring audits are completed on time and all issues are addressed. She said the county has solved most of the major issues in its audits, yet was denied funding by the Department of Transportation. Commission chairman and District IV Commissioner Daniel Monette noted the DOT denied projects submitted from everywhere in the state, not just Socorro County, over minor technical details.

Walsh noted the county was three years behind on audits when the current administration took over, but now the county has done so well with its audits that it was able to secure a great rating for its jail bond.

She added the new loan through the New Mexico Finance Authority for the charter school will come in at almost 0 percent interest.

“That’s how well we’re performing on our controls,” Walsh said. “So it’ll get better.”

Walsh said for the ICIP, the new jail is a big item on the list. The county must also consider what to do with its old jail. The county has also delayed several sorely needed building improvements. She added solid waste trucks are also a concern as the county is running trucks from the 1990s with very high mileage.

“This is our wish list … if it’s on the list and grants come up, we go for it,” she said. “If it’s not on the list, the requirements are so strict today we won’t even be able to apply.”

Walsh strongly encouraged county staff to fill out forms to include projects on the ICIP.

In other business, the County Commission:

• Delegated authority to the county manager to enter an architect services agreement for Veguita Health Center. Walsh said this way as soon as the grant money comes in, she can contract an architect to get the project going.

• Approved a memorandum of agreement with the city of Socorro to exchange $40,000 in EMS funds for $40,000 in detention center funds. Walsh noted it was the same agreement the entities enter every year. The MOA explains the county has $40,000 earmarked for EMS, yet doesn’t have an EMS program, while the city has $40,000 earmarked for detention, yet doesn’t have a detention center, so they exchange the funding.

• Approved a memorandum of understanding with Luna County to house detention center inmates. Walsh said county staff negotiated a lower price with Luna County, from $121 per inmate per day to $96.

• Approved an amendment to the county’s contract with Summit Foods to provide food for the detention center. Walsh said it is a 2 percent increase in cost, but Summit Foods showed staff documentation for the increase, which is justified.

• Proclaimed September as Recovery Month, in celebration of recovery from substance abuse as well as mental health disorders. Charlene Alfero, councilor at the county’s community alternatives program, said the program will hold drug-free, alcohol-free events during the month, including a dinner and dance at Kelly Hall on Sept. 14 from 7-11 p.m. featuring Suavecito and Remedy, two local bands volunteering their equipment and time for the event.

• Authorized the county manager to approve a petition from Magellan Pipeline Company for a permit to lay oil and gas pipelines. County attorney Adren Nance explained it is a transfer of person of interest. He said the easements were originally obtained through Standard Oil Company, which no longer exists. Although he expected it was “pretty run of the mill,” Nance recommended the commission, rather than approve the petition that day, authorize Walsh to approve it once Nance has a chance to have a thorough look at the documents.

• Accepted property donations, seven plots in Rio Grande Estates.

• Approved vendor checks in the amount of just over $1.09 million. Walsh explained the county did not spend $1 million; $800,000 of the amount was a transfer of funds.

• Approved payroll for July 24 totaling $181,817.73 and for Aug. 7 totaling $182,670.25.