Talon News - Good Local News

EMOTION-PACKED COUNTY COMMISSION

 

December 28, 2018

Wallace Charley Receives Service Award-As Commissioner.JPG

Story and Photos by David Edward Albright, TALON

With the term-limit departure of two Commissions and the retirement of CEO, Kim Carpenter, the final, December 18, County Commission Meeting of 2018, was marked by heartfelt words, awards, flowers---plus many photos. A Commission Chamber packed with county employees and others heard five 'New Business' items before the emotions and speeches of departing leaders---were unleashed.

Chris Garner, an auditor with Patillo, Brown and Hill, LLP, presented the results of 'FY18 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). He said, "What you've asked us to do is express an opinion on your financial statements...we're not giving absolute assurance, we're giving... reasonable assurance." They don't look at every transaction, there could be errors in the financial statements, but "they're not going to be big enough to alter the opinion of those reading (it)". The Commissioners were able to page through the report and ask questions, such as particular findings and recommendations. Garner said San Juan is one of a few (only five) counties in the state that does a CAFR, which has "extra information, statistical information---it has a lot higher standards that those are held to". "The County has gotten the GFOA Award for excellent financial reporting for twelve consecutive years," he stated. CAFR does help with bond ratings and the award is prestigious, according to Garner.

Joe Sawyer presented the second item, dealing with the New Mexico Economic Development Department Grant for the Plant Expansion Project for PESCO, Inc. "This ordinance will authorize an additional $1,350,000" above the $1 million dollar grant from the state of New Mexico. An additional 180 jobs on top of 170 created by the earlier grant. Fred Shepherd, New Mexcio Eonomic Development, explained the grant application process. "We work with the company, first identifying if they're an eligible entity...the project scope...once the application is done there is analysis to make sure we're properly utilizing the public funds. The process normally "takes 60-90 days--- sometimes quicker," he said. 'Ordinance No.101' passed.

County Chief Operating Officer Mike Stark, who will assume the top position in the County on January 1, 2019, presented 'Consideration of City of Aztec and City of Farmington FY 2020 Animal Shelter Services Rates'. Stark said the per diem rates for animals are crafted the same way as with the Detention Center. "This year the per stay rate (per animal/Aztec) is $127.27 for next year...this is a 13.22% increase from the previous year," he shared. He said four years ago there was a "dramatic change of philosophy by the City of Farmington---from animal control to animal welfare". A subsidy was in place by Farmington to the County, but "that has been phased out" (effective last year). The County pays 45.84% of the operating costs for the shelters, which also accept animals from the Navajo Nation. Stark reported the percentage has dropped, from 40 to 30, from last year to 2018. As requested by the Commission, Stark has sent letters to the Navajo Nation requesting they pick up the cost of animal care on their behalf. A reply has not been received. Commission Crowley expressed his concern about the cost incurred for care of animals from the Navajo Nation. Carpenter said, "They have not sat idle on their activities...they have set up spay/neuter trailers" at various parts of the nation. Stark said the number of animals has dropped from 8700 (billed to the County) now down to just over 5000 in FY18. So aggressive spay/neuter programs are working, but there are "fixed operational costs even with declining numbers", he asserted. The measure passed.

Sawyer presented item 4, 'Ordinance No. 94 to Allow the Transfer of the Harper Valley Subdivision Wastewater Collection System to Valley Water & Sanitation District'. It passed without discussion.

The last item, presented by Stark, was a resolution to authorize 'Payment of Electrical Improvement to McGee Park' from 2015 County revenue bonds. He said, "We went back...to see if we could recapture those dollars (from 2015) and reclassify them---utilizing the bond proceeds". It will allow the County to acquire $2.4 million in "free cash", he said. He presented the Commission with a summary report to show them how it would work---"coming into this year with $8.2 million available for use". After he detailed current projects like the Pinon Hills extension and bridge, Chairman Pro Tem Jack Fortner said he would like to see the letter which supported the legality of the process. The measure was tabled until County Attorney Don Echols left the chamber to print an email which validated the process being legal. Subsequently, the reservation passed.

The meeting intensified with the 'Report from CEO', Kim Carpenter, who read the plaques awarding Commissioner Wallace Charley and Chairman Margaret McDaniel before expressing his final words as the County leader. It read in part, "Presented to Wallace Charley with deep appreciation for your vision, your guidance and your unwaivering leadership from 2015-2018." Carpenter then presented McDaniel her award for serving from 2011 to 2018. "This has been the best, the hardest, most rewarding eight years I've ever spent," the teary Chairman said. "I was asked to run for this position fourteen times and I said no thirteen times and I then said okay... and they said by the way you can't win, we just wanted someone we thought would give it a good shot...then I thought---don't tell be I can't win." Spontaneous laughter before a beautiful bouquet of flowers were presented to her by Aerial Liese and other young people.

McDaniel asked Commissioner Charley if he had "any words for us". He jokingly said, "Yeah, I'd like to ask if there's any way I can continue...(to much laughter!). Addressing County employees, an emotional Charley said, "You've been professional...you treat me well, helped me... and you really took care of the roads, bridges, finance, sheriff---every one of you---I just want to say thank you...and Commissioners, thank you also...and I'll miss you all."

Taking his opportunity for final comments Carpenter said, "Well, this is my last meeting, had a staff meeting this morning and told all the staff how much I thanked them and appreciate...what they've done for me---almost fourteen years." He pointed to the ten significant National Achievement Awards on the wall and said, "one of the things that's I'm very grateful for is how easy you guys have made my job, not only staff but Commission. I'm very grateful and honored that I've had this opportunity to serve the citizens for over thirty-one years...and it's tough to leave a great thing, but I told Mike (Stark) that I leave it with comfort---knowing that we're better-off---knowing he's taking over". "One of the greatest legacies a CEO could have is leaving a place in good condition, but departing...where you know it's in good hands". "San Juan County will always be my home...it's just been a real honor and I will leave...with nothing but fond memories", he tearfully expressed. Chairman Pro-Tem Fortner said, "Somehow you know a whole lot about a whole lot of things---that's what makes you so valuable as a CEO."

Commissioner Crowley announced that on December 31, 2018 at 1:00 pm there will be a retirement party for Carpenter. Fire Chief Daugherty reporting "good news", said, "we were recently informed that we are recipients of a grant...so that will bring in about a million dollars to the County". He thanked the outgoing Commissioners and Dr. Carpenter for their service and leadership. Mike Stark, taking over as County Manager (new name for CEO), January 1, 2019, announced the promotion of Fran Fillerup to take his place as Chief Administrative Officer (renamed from Chief Operating Officer), with Nick Porell moving into Fillerup's position as Public Works Administrator. "Strategic planning has to have laser-like focus... can't think of a better person to lead that initiative---and that's Jim Cox," Stark said. He will have the new title of Chief Financial and Strategy Officer as part of the executive team.

The meeting adjourned after Mark Matthews, Acting District Manager of the BLM introduced Jillian Aragon as the new District Manager of the Bureau of Land Management in San Juan County.

 

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