Talon News - Good Local News



October 19, 2018

Commission Honors Finance Dept.

by David Edward Albright, TALON

Acknowledging exceptional performance by the County's Finance Department, San Juan County CEO, Kim Carpenter, said, "Something that is extremely important to us --- it's our financial accountability." Two national awards, a 'Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting' and the 'Distinguished Budget Presentation Award', were received from the Government Finance Officers Association.

"These awards are rare; people don't realize that there are not very many entities that receive these types of accolades," Carpenter asserted. Chief Financial Officer Jim Cox, with some of his staff, received the award, a round of applause and photos with the Commission. Cox thanked the Commission and the "entire financial team".

The October 16, 2018, County Commission Meeting proceeded with the 'Consent Agenda', which included the approval of: 'Volunteer Assistance Grant', 'Donation, Negotiated Sale and Disposition of County Surplus' and 'Meeting Minutes'.

The Commission breezed through the 'New Business' agenda items quickly, with Chief Operations Officer, Mike Stark, presenting the 'Grant Agreement with the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration, followed by Thomas Havel, Detention Center Administrator reporting on the 'Tenth Amendment to the Intergovernmental Agreement for Detention Center Services'. Chairman Pro Tem, Jack Fortner asked Havel to compare the number of bed days last year to previous years. Havel said, "We've seen a decrease in inmate population, basically because of the new rules on bonding, not to put down law enforcement, they're doing a great job, but if you don't have those rules to follow --- they can't stay in jail...and with the reduced number of bed days --- the per diem rate goes up." He said they "average roughly 250,000 bed days" and that a few years back it was 263,000, now it's 219,000. Asked how that affects kitchen help, he said, "It affects the kitchen labor because under the statute we can have inmates work on government projects without remuneration. I require the inmates to work while they're in the facility, whether they're doing floors, laundry or in the kitchen. We use misdemeanor offenders or low-grade fourth-degree felony offenders...and right now I don't see any anticipated change, but there could be and if that happens the cost of food could be quite expensive." He said it's a daily struggle to find competent inmates, through classification, to work in the kitchen. He said the budget increase (5% this year, 20% last year) was mainly reflected by medical and mental health care requirements their higher costs (about $6 million dollars with the new provider). He said, "We have no control over the inmates that come to us...they usually have bad health and mental health challenges...that's why we've seen such a drastic increase in our correctional costs." He said there had been no staffing cost increases for over nine years. The item was approved.

Doug Echols reported that three Commissions had done an inspection of the Detention Center. "They found that the facility was clean, the prisoners were in a state of personal cleanliness, that the food was of good and wholesome quality and that the discipline of the prisoners appeared to be in order --- that's what's required under the statute," he stated.

Mike Stark said that PESCO, Inc. will not be renewing their lease with the County on a 45-acre tract off La Plata Highway, effective December 31, 2018. However, they asked for an extention/renewal of 8.66 acres adjacent to the other tract, at the monthly rate of $150. The two year lease will net the county $3600. Stark said they're seeking applications, that will close on November 15, for a new lease of the property and industrial building that will be vacated. Approval of 'Item 4 – Lease Extention' followed.

Regarding 'Item 5 – Scheduling of November Commission Meetings', it was decided that the second November meeting, which falls during Thanksgiving week, would be addressed at the November 8th meeting. Cox reported on the budget adjustments, which included SJC Medical Center renovation costs; it was approved.

'Report from CEO' included a discussion of transportation, budgetary data and tax reform issues by Commissioner Crowley and Mike Stark. Fortner brought up the issue of the County taking over law enforcement for the City of Bloomfield and the jurisdictional and reimbursement factors. Crowley said he met about two weeks ago with the Bloomfield mayor and a councilor --- and they were still "gathering information". Carpenter said, "there's a lot that has to be done prior any of this coming to fruition."

Carpenter said, "one of the biggest smoking guns right now is...there's legislation in Arizona...creating the requirement for power companies to create a portfolio of 50% alternative energy sources." He said there is concern among APS officials and employees that, if enacted, this could shut down the plant. Echols reported that Westmoreland Coal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a "very complex one with probably forty debtors involved...their annual payment (to the County) is just under seven figures, so it's important that we do everything that we need to do".

The meeting wound up with M.P. Schildmeyer announcing a public debate with incumbent, Paul Bandy, for State House District 3, on Monday, October 22, 6:30pm, at the Aztec Senior Center. A 'Closed Executive Session' followed --- for the 'Annual CEO Evaluation'.


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