Welcome to News @ Noon for Friday 3 August 2012 brought to you by Gila / Mimbres Community Radio in a landmark community media collaboration with The Grant County Beat – your daily newspaper for up-to-date information about Grant County.
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Today we have 3 related stories regarding the Southwest County Commissions Alliance. The first is,
Southwest County Commission Alliance hears input
Created on Wednesday, 01 August 2012 14:25
The Southwest County Commissions Alliance held its second meeting Tuesday afternoon.
Elections were held, with Gabriel Ramos being elected chairman; Hugh B. McKeen of Catron County, vice chairman; and Darr Shannon of Hidalgo County, as secretary.
During public input, several spoke in opposition to events of the first meeting.
“I rise in support of the Gila National Forest Travel Management Plan to make sure the forest is protected for the future,” Silver City resident Walter Szymanski said. “I also commend (Grant County Commissioner) Christy Miller for protesting the tone of the first alliance meeting. Talk of cutting locks seems out of line for responsible adults. She spoke for a lot of us who live in this community.”
“Keep in mind. The forest is public land. It’s not just Catron, Grant or Sierra counties’ playground,” he continued. “It is national public land. Everyone in the country has as much right to have a say-so as you commissioners here.”
Kelly Russell, Gila National Forest supervisor, said the forest hoped to have a decision on the Travel Management Plan by August, but “a fire got in the way. It will be fall or early winter before we have a decision. Any of us is available for questions.”
Resident Jeff Boyd reiterated that the Gila National Forest and all other national forests are owned by the people of the United States. “All of us share in the forests. They are managed for all living today and in the future. Management is national and allows for national oversight. The Grant County Commission and the Sheriff do not have the resources to deal with the forest…”
Lynda Aiman-Smith, who described herself as a multi-generational New Mexican and a professor, said she wants transparency. “With all the other organizations, such as the councils of government and the New Mexico Association of Counties, I wonder why this group is needed. There are often given and hidden reasons. On the face of it, to an outsider, it looks like the start of a Sagebrush Rebellion. I urge it not to be.”
Donna Stephens, resident, who protested that she could not hear what was being said by others, said she thinks it is misguided to vilify the federal government. “The federal government brings in million of dollars to Grant County. If you’re going to vilify it, you shouldn’t accept its money.”
“I know there have been adequate opportunities to give input,” Stephens said, “and there is not a constitutional scholar in the room. A lot of case law states the federal government has responsibility for the national forests. I know Catron County is suing the federal government for a road established in 1987. That’s a little late for an RS2477 road.” She then handed out papers to the alliance commissioners.
Kim McCreery, Silver City regional director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, also talked about the tone of the last meeting. “With freedom, comes responsibility,” she said. “I see the rule of law disintegrating. If we want the freedom to enjoy the forest, we have the responsibility to be good stewards and not damage riparian areas. It may mean closing roads.”
“The preferred Gila National Forest alternative in the Travel Management Plan will close 24 percent of the roads,” McCreery continued. “That still leaves 3,000 miles of roads open. To say, as was said at the last meeting, that closing roads would close off access to 97 percent of the forest is not true. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to be responsible in forest use.”
SWCCA fire plans in Catron County heard
Created on Thursday, 02 August 2012 15:07
Members and participants at the Southwest County Commission Alliance heard a report on Catron County’s activities to lessen fire danger and destruction.
Zina Day-McGuire, Catron County fire chief, who has also had 30 years in emergency management and has served as a volunteer fire department chief, said the volunteer fire departments need more recruits, as the average age of the volunteers is 62.
She showed a video of last year’s catastrophic floods that took out Dixon’s Apple Orchard after the Las Conchas Fire and about an inch of rain on the burned area. It took out the orchard, the home and the outbuildings.
“Our creeks are wider and deeper, so they can carry more water,” McGuire said. “In Catron County, so far, we’ve had runoff from the Whitewater-Baldy burn in Mineral Creek after .71 inches of rain. We anticipate a large rainfall could take out the Mineral Bridge.
“I give credit to the county, the Department of Transportation, and the Army Corps of Engineers for clearing out brush in the floodway, but we still don’t know if we can survive if there is more than one inch of rain,” McGuire continued. “Silver Creek has flooded several times. The Forest Service and the U.S. Geological Service have also helped mitigate what could possibly be catastrophic. Nothing has come down Whitewater Creek yet.”
She presented a history of declarations of disaster resolutions and intergovernmental task forces put in place by the county because of past fires, including last year’s Wallow and this year’s Whitewater-Baldy.
“Our citizens are concerned about what we are doing to protect lives, forests and resources,” McGuire said..
McGuire touched on the Health Forests Restoration Act, which emphasizes that federal agencies collaborate with communities in developing hazardous fuel reduction. The act provides communities with the opportunity to influence where and how to reduce fuels.
“The National Fire Protection Agency’s has put in 100 years of money, studies and research, and the Wallow and the Whitewater Baldy are what we have to show for it,” McGuire said…
“The heart of the Gila is very, very sad right now,” she concluded.
SWCCA members discuss juvenile detention and solid waste fees
Created on Thursday, 02 August 2012 16:55
During the latter part of the Southwest County Commissions Alliance meeting, discussion centered on juvenile detention center issues, as well as the issue of landfill payments.
Kelly Kuenstler, Luna County manager, introduced Matthew Elwell, Luna County Detention Center administrator.
“There are very few centers left in the state for juveniles,” Elwell said. “Quite a few counties rely on us to house their juveniles.”
He said 361 youths had been in the jail this year, with the majority of them being Hispanic males.
“Substance abuse and a lack of general education are leading to problems,” Elwell said. “Especially the education part is a problem. It’s hard to get homework from teachers in other counties. Luna County teachers can provide homework for the youths. We need to keep their education going. And we need to look at alternatives to incarceration—maybe leaving them in their homes with electronic monitoring. More treatment is always a focus. We don’t want more beds, but to keep the juveniles out of incarceration.”
“In a perfect world, that would be great,” Gabriel Ramos, Grant County commissioner and Alliance chairman, said. “But we know that’s not going to happen. What can we do to help you continue to provide incarceration?”
Grant County Manager Jon Paul Saari said a discussion had taken place at recent New Mexico Association of Counties meetings about how to support the juvenile detention centers and how to grow programs to keep youths out of the system. He commented that Children, Youth and Families Department “is washing its hands of the situation. The worst-run facility in the state is run by CYFD.”
“I think you should work to increase the size of your facility and charge us what it costs you,” Saari said. “It would still be less expensive than if we have to build a million-dollar facility for perhaps six or eight juveniles.”
Darr Shannon, Hidalgo County commissioner and Alliance secretary, said: “There will always be a need for detainment. Programs seem to go in circles. Can’t the schools and parents catch the problem way back where it can be controlled? There’s got to be an answer about why it is out of control. Too many government programs go in different directions. Get the school administration on the same page as the detention administration.”
Ron Hall, audience member who was a police officer for 25 years, and spent 16 years as magistrate judge, said he thinks the regional concept of juvenile detention is “great. If we try to plug in all the programs, it will just confuse the child. Incarceration is not the answer. Correction is the answer. Schools and families need to work on it, but I don’t know one person who can do it.”
Saari said, when the Grant County lost its juvenile center, it contracted with a company for ankle bracelets and monitoring. “It costs us $48,000 a year, working with the Juvenile Probation Office for the bracelets and the surveillance. CYFD shut the program down, but Judge Robinson got it back. The only kids being incarcerated are the violent offenders. The bracelet program puts the responsibility back on the parent. Judge Hall really pushed for the program. It works out great, if we don’t get interference from the state.”
Ramos thanked Luna County for keeping its facility open.
The next discussion centered on how to get residents to pay the Grant County monthly fee of $5 for the solid waste disposal.
The next meeting of the Southwest County Commissions Alliance will take place at 1 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 29, at the Luna County Commission Chambers in Deming.
That concludes today’s edition of News @ Noon presented by GMCR and with thanks to The Grant County Beat for their permission to provide you with this report. We invite you to join us daily for the latest updates.
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