By JO LUTZ
Daily Press Staff
Grant County will soon move into the cloud, as the County Commission voted Tuesday to approve a contract with Tyler Technologies that will allow data currently stored on the county’s computer server to migrate onto Tyler’s servers, where it will be accessed over the internet.
They also initiated the first step toward issuing $8 million in bonds approved by voters, and tabled approval of the Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan for the Mimbres Valley and Gila senior centers, in hopes further information can be provided about its details at next week’s special meeting.
The presentations featured an update from The Commons: Center for Food Security on needs and their services in the county, including the launch of the new virtual volunteer center.
“This volunteer center platform has huge potential to mobilize volunteers in our community,” said Commons Director Dave Chandler. “You’ll be seeing more about this in the weeks to come.”
He explained that the virtual volunteer center is a robust online volunteer platform which, while not inexpensive at $5,000 per year, is well-tested, user-friendly and full of features. It is a one-stop shop for people in the area looking to volunteer, where they can connect with volunteer opportunities at more than 65 nonprofits.
He also pointed out that it could mobilize volunteers quickly in an emergency, for instance sandbagging for floods or staffing emergency shelters.
Chandler said that the Annie E. Casey Foundation had ranked New Mexico last out of 50 states on an index of well-being that included food security. He said that a statewide study had found that 40 percent of children in Grant County experience food insecurity — amounting to 3,300 households. He said The Commons serves about 1,000 of those households, some through partnerships with school districts that include sending backpacks and boxes home and having in-school pantries that faculty and staff can access to give to kids, and farm stands that get produce from school and neighborhood gardens to families.
Another vulnerable segment of the population is seniors. The Commons staff member Jay Brady said that the organization has begun assisting 216 additional households since the beginning of the year — 80 percent of which are seniors.
“We’re going to continue to see that population grow,” Brady said. “It’s not going to shrink.”
Chandler and Brady were not requesting any funds from the county, but mentioned that many food pantries are county funded, and that if demand continues to grow at recent rates, the organization may have to look beyond grants and donations.
“I see it as we’re all sitting at the same table, and there’s more food on one side than the other,” Brady said. “It’s our responsibility to pass the bowls.”
Next, Sheriff Raul Villanueva invited Homeland Security officer Paul Wayne to present Lt. Jason Jordan with an award for investigation in a recent sexual exploitation case conducted in partnership with DHS.
“It is with sincere gratitude that we express appreciation for significant contribution, tenacity and collaboration,” Wayne read in a statement, “resulting in identification and rescuing the victim and bringing a predator to justice.”
During the business portion of the meeting, county Information Technology Manager Adam Baca presented the agreement with Tyler Technologies for a $65,752 annual services contract, which includes the suite of software used by various county departments that he called “enterprise resource planning software.” It also will now include the migrating and hosting of data on their server, rather than on-site at the county.
In response to a question from District 5 Commissioner Harry Browne, Baca assured the commission that he had arranged redundant connections by two different service providers to ensure access.
“I appreciate your thoroughness,” District 3 Commissioner Alicia Edwards remarked.
The commission also approved the publishing of a notice of intent to issue bonds. Provisionally, the ordinance to be presented in September will authorize the county to issue up to $4 million out of the $8 million in bonds already approved by voters. Financial advisers and bond counsel were on hand to discuss parameters, such as the requirement to issue all $8 million in the next four years, not to issue enough to require raising the mill rate, to reduce transaction and administrative costs while also timing the issuance strategically with interest rates, and not authorizing more at a time than can be spent in the 120-day period.
County Manager Charlene Webb explained that the current recommendation of a $4 million authorization for a $2 million initial issuance was based on the shovel-readiness of the Hamilton Bridge repair project that was not otherwise funded, and that she was working with County Maintenance Manager Jason Lockett to identify a series a projects that are next in line.
Another spending decision looming on the horizon is the approval of the ICIP for the Mimbres Valley and Gila senior centers, which were both on the agenda for Tuesday. The county-owned and Hidalgo Medical Services-operated senior centers are required to have their own ICIPs, separate from the one recently approved for the rest of the county.
However, vagueness about HMS’s stated priorities left commissioners hesitant to approve the plan. The proposal included some amount of transport and delivery vehicles for the Meals on Wheels program, but the number and individual costs were unclear. In addition, the plan called for unspecified “facilities improvements” which commissioners wanted to know more about before putting their seal on the request — which ultimately is sent to legislators in Santa Fe.
The senior center ICIP was tabled until next Wednesday’s special meeting, when they hope that the HMS senior services director will be on hand to answer questions.
Commissioner comments raised a couple of forest-related issues from around the county. District 2 Commissioner Eloy Medina expressed concern about getting emergency services to people in remote areas — in particular via McKnight Road, where some uncertainty about public access across private property has led the Forest Service to propose spending $500,000 on a second access road.
Browne spoke up about the Forest Service thinning plan now out for comment that includes herbicide treatments over a broad area adjacent to human settlement, saying the information about the herbicides themselves, the area to be treated and the defined protections are unclear, and the process is rushed.
“I’ve heard a lot of concern about this proposal, so I went back and read it more closely,” Browne said. “They’re kind of doing this in a hurry to take advantage of funding. … They had one meeting and the comment period closed yesterday. … I’m very glad they’re doing this, I just feel like the plan is too vague.”
He said that by his reading, 27,000 acres could be subject to herbicide treatment. Other commissioners agreed they would like a Forest Service representative to attend their next meeting to present about the plan and answer questions.
Jo Lutz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.